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  • 30 April 2014
  • Posted By Kaveh Eslampour
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2013

International Response to Abuse in Evin Prison

On April 17th, over 30 inmates in the 350 Ward of Iran’s Evin Prison were subjected to physical abuse and forcible head shavings, according to human rights groups outside of Iran. Victims included political prisoner Hossein Ronaghi Maleki and human rights lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani, both of whom were imprisoned following the uprisings of the disputed 2009 presidential election. With no public response from President Rouhani, campaigns professing solidarity with the prisoners have led the international outcry to investigate the incident and improve human rights in Iran.

The crackdown was conducted by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Intelligence Ministry officers, and prison guards who claim to have been conducting a routine search for elicit items such as cell phones. Following the incident, 32 prisoners were put into solitary confinement with some yet to be released. Gholam Hossein Esmaili was removed from his post as head of Iran Prisons Organization following the incident. However, in a move to defy critics, he was elevated to director general of the Justice Department in Tehran Province. This assault is the latest in a series of egregious human rights violations committed by the conservative dominated judiciary and the IRGC, possibly aimed at undermining President Rouhani in the ongoing nuclear negotiations with the West.

421 activists inside of Iran have written a public letter to President Rouhani calling for him to investigate the assault and protect citizen’s rights. Rouhani has not responded publically to the incident, although he has met privately with several prisoners’ family members. One day after protests outside of the President’s office, Rouhani administration spokesperson Mohammad Bagher Nobakht said that a team had been put together to investigate the attack. No new details about the team or their findings have emerged since the announcement a week ago. The constitutional powers of the president of Iran do not grant the authority to free political prisoners, although during his campaign Rouhani pledged to “improve the situation” of many prominent prisoners.

Rather than trying to appeal to President Rouhani, others have focused on supporting the victims of the assault. Thousands have viewed a group on Facebook (which is technically blocked inside Iran) dedicated to supporting those kept in Ward 350, with hundreds posting pictures of themselves with shaved heads to symbolize solidarity with the prisoners. More than 30 prisoners from inside of Evin Prison and six from the Rajaa Shar Prison have launched a hunger strike to call attention to their unlawful imprisonment and brutal treatment, according to human rights groups outside of Iran. In his latest report, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran Ahmed Shaheed reported at least 895 ‘prisoners of conscience’ and ‘political prisoners’ inside of Iran. Shaheed has still not been granted access to the country.

There has been increasing frustration with Rouhani for not pursuing campaign promises to improve human rights in Iran. Rouhani’s administration has appeared to focus instead on first resolving the nuclear issue with the West, under the belief that doing so can empower moderates and generate momentum on improving human rights in Iran. Former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist, has called for the release of political prisoners, including 2009 presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. On the opposite side, hardliners continue to criticize Rouhani for negotiating with the West. A new hour long documentary titled “I Am Rouhani”, reportedly funded by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, is critical of Rouhani’s dealing with Iran’s “enemies.”

  • 11 February 2010
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 8 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Bearing Witness: 22 Bahman

NIAC is liveblogging the events of Feb. 11 in Iran, which marks the latest day of planned opposition protests as well as the anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic.  We encourage readers to share their own news and insights in the comments section below.

2:36 pm: More from the Senate presser.  John McCain, speaking about the new Iran Human Rights Sanctions Act:

The United States must lead an international effort to support the human rights of the Iranian people, and to put that effort at the center of our policy toward Iran.  This is not about picking winners in an internal Iranian matter. It’s about standing up for the universal values we hold dear and championing the cause of all who seek to secure those values for themselves.

1:49 pm: Senate focuses on Iran human rights. As Laura Rozen reported this morning, Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman are introducing a bill imposing sanctions on Iran — nothing new there — but this time the focus is not on the nuclear program, but rather the human rights violations going on.

The scheme is straightforward: the bill requires the President to draw up and periodically update a list of names of individuals who have committed human rights abuses in Iran,” a Senate aide says. “These individuals are then subject to a set of targeted sanctions, including a visa ban and various financial restrictions under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.”

The list will also be public, so that other governments and people around the world, including in Iran, can see who these individuals are, the aide continued. It also includes a presidential waiver that can be exercised on a case-by-case basis. “The overall sanctions scheme lifts when the President can certify that the Iranian government has taken certain tangible steps to improve the human rights situation inside the country, such as releasing all political prisoners.

The press conference, which is still going on, is available here, via C-Span.

12:46 pm: “Allah-u Akbar,” “Death to Dictator” rooftop chants tonight. JARAS is reporting that opposition supporters are planning to shout “death to the dictator” alongside their usual chants of “Allah-u Akbar” tonight.  (h/t NYT)

12:42 pm: Most mainstream news outlets have validated my initial assessment earlier today (9:02 am) about the government using security services to maintain relative control over the opposition’s activities.  Tehran Bureau called it an “anti-climax,” and AP is reporting many opposition supporters being deflated at the size and strength of opposition rallies compared to the pro-government one.

[T]he massive security clampdown appeared to succeed in preventing protesters from converging into a cohesive demonstrations. Large numbers of riot police, members of the Revolutionary Guard and Basij militiamen, some on motorcycles, deployed in back streets near key squares and major avenues in the capital to move against protesters.

Without playing the game of counter-factuals, it is important to note just how differently today could have gone.  Following Ashura, which rocked the hardliners to their very core, many expected today’s protests to be even larger and more well organized.  Many more dreaded the possibility that Basij and security personnel would fire on the crowds and kill scores.  Obviously that did not happen today, though the Basijis were as violent as ever in dispersing the crowds.

For those who yearn for democratic progress and respect for human rights in Iran, as we do, days like today will always be difficult to watch.  It’s a catch-22: for the “greens” to prevail, many believe they will have to endure massive violence, brutality, and chaos.  But the world can hardly abide the violence, brutality, and chaos that we have already witnessed.  And so, faced with this difficult challenge, many in the West on Facebook and in the blogosphere simply turn against one another, choosing to engage in petty backbiting rather than keeping the focus where it belongs: on the struggle that continues to be waged by average, ordinary people in Iran.  Frankly, they couldn’t care less what we think or what our problems with one another are.

12:13 pm: Our contact in Iran (11:58) also points out a big distinction between the various types of security personnel surrounding the demonstrations — the ordinary police forces versus the Basij, or as our contact calls them the “gladiators.”  For those on the ground in Iran, the ordinary police force is much more ambivalent about cracking down on opposition activities — the guards at the makeshift prison that was overrun by protesters were police, not Basij, which made a big difference to the opposition supporters.

11:58 am: A contact in Iran who attended the rallies in and around Azadi and Sadeghieh Square this morning told us of his experience, which left him bruised and cut from scuffling with security forces.

According to the source, the biggest difference between today’s events and previous demonstrations was the amount of undercover police among the crowd.  The moment anyone indicated an opposition or “green” point of view, plainclothes militiamen would come out of nowhere and take that person away.  One gentleman remarked about all the buses funneling people in from out of town, only to be whisked away by three undercover agents.

Our contact was also one of the protesters shot with an orange paint pellet, to mark him for arrest at a later time.  He managed to find a hiding place where he could wipe the paint off of his pants to evade detection.

Finally, during the morning’s rallies, he recounted an experience where three protesters were being held by police in a makeshift pen, when a group of other opposition supporters came to the rescue.  They so outnumbered the police guards, throwing rocks and yelling for their release, that the crowd broke down the holding pen and freed the three.

11:35 am: IAEA on Iran’s “modest” new enrichment. AP obtained an internal IAEA document regarding the enrichment work announced in this morning’s speech by President Ahmadinejad, which for the first time took  uranium above the 5% level in Iran. “Iran expects to produce its first batch of higher enriched uranium in a few days but its initial effort is modest, using only a small amount of feedstock and a fraction of its capacities,” it said.  “It should be noted that there is currently only one cascade … that is capable of enriching” up to 20 percent, said the document.

The document, relying on onsite reports from International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, also cited Iranian experts at the enrichment plant at Natanz as saying that only about 10 kilograms — 22 pounds — of low enriched uranium had been fed into the cascade for further enrichment.

Agency inspectors were told Wednesday “that it was expected that the facility would begin to produce up to 20 percent enriched … (uranium) within a few days,” said the one-page document.

11:22 am: Tehran Bureau has an interview with Karroubi’s son, Hossein.

How is your father Haj Agha Mehdi Karroubi? We’re treating him for burns to his face and eyes. He’s having trouble with his lungs too. He was badly attacked with pepper spray. Plainclothes agents (vigilantes) approached him and kept spraying it in his eyes. He’s resting at home though; he’s not been hospitalized.

Any news of your brother Ali?

We haven’t been able to figure out where he is. Everyone we call claims to have no information on him. We believe he’s in the custody of the law enforcement agency.

11:05 am: Recap. Most reports indicate that people are heading home right about now.  The day was characterized by the contrasting styles of the one large government-sponsored rally in the morning with tens of thousands of people, versus the numerous smaller and nimbler gatherings by the opposition forces.  There have been no confirmed cases of protesters being killed, (though rumors abound), and most likely the number of arrests is in the low hundreds.  Protests occurred in most of the major cities, but the heaviest presence was felt by far in Tehran.

Many commenters are calling the presence of governmental security forces “stifling,” using violence and intimidation to prevent demonstrations from growing beyond relatively small numbers.  With over a month to prepare, the government’s security forces were out in full force today, immediately reacting when opposition leaders like Karroubi, Khatami, and Mousavi appeared among the people.  For much of this week, Internet service was spotty and Gmail has been taken down completely, all in preparation for today’s expected events.  (Compare this to Ashura, when the government had hardly any time at all to prepare, and the reaction by Basij and police was much more careless and led to more bloodshed).  Family members of opposition leaders were beaten or detained, and there was never an opportunity to rally supporters around the green movement’s figureheads.

10:30 am: Brutality.

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kSBWG2rBV8&feature=player_embedded”]

9:32 am: Via Mir Hossein Mousavi’s Facebook page, Kalame news is reporting:

Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, wife of Mir Hossein Mousavi, who was intending to join the people in the demonstration from Sadeghiye Square was surrounded and attacked by plain clothes militia. The plain clothes militia physically assaulted her and beat her with batons at her head and back. Zahra Rahnavard after this incident with the support of a large crowd of people who made a human shield to protect her, was able to leave the area.

9:21 am: The Guardian relays an AP interview with protesters today, who were dejected for the same reason mentioned below at 9:02.

“There were 300 of us, maximum 500. Against 10,000 people,” one protester said.

“It means they won and we lost. They defeated us. They were able to gather so many people. But this doesn’t mean we have been defeated for good. It’s a defeat for now, today. We need time to regroup,” she said.

Another protester insisted the opposition had come out in significant numbers, but “the problem was that we were not able to gather in one place because they (security forces) were very violent.”

It should be noted that this is actually not at all the representative view for most opposition supporters being reported on today.  Many green activists on Twitter have been circulating messages saying the goal of the opposition today was to disrupt the government’s official ceremony, and that it was a victory.

9:02 am: It’s still very early to be drawing conclusions from today’s events, as people are still out in the streets.  But one thing I’m struck by is just how much the government has been in control today.  Sure, they chartered busses and lured tens of thousands to the official government rally with free food, but they have also managed to keep the opposition activities largely on their terms today.

The government’s strategy is to depict the protesters as a small group of rioting thugs, burning trash cans and disrupting order for their own radical, “foreign-backed” agenda.  Toward that end, they have been very effective at keeping the demonstrations today dispersed and nervous — less of the “million man march” and more like Seattle WTO protesters.  Above all else, the ruling elites know the danger of big crowds: strength in numbers takes over and individuals no longer feel like they will be held accountable for their actions, thus their demands get more radical and their tactics more extreme; this forces a harsher backlash from security forces, possibly including using lethal force.  And then that’s the ball-game.  That’s exactly what happened in 1979, and Khamenei learned that lesson well enough that he’ll do his utmost not to repeat it.

So today’s events (like previous ones) have seen security forces disrupt crowds before they can coalesce into a large group, arresting numerous individuals as a way of controlling the crowds before they get out of the police’s hands.

8:42 am: Josh Shahryar has catalogued most of the opposition rallies today, with his own figures for numbers arrested by police forces.  By his account, thousands gathered in Esfahan at the See-o-Seh Bridge, where security forces tried to disperse the demonstators with tear gas.  Also, protests occured in Ahvaz, Shiraz, Mashad, and of course, Tehran, with skirmishes involving security forces either arresting individuals, blocking protesters routes, or in some cases firing tear gas and beating anyone showing any sign of opposition activity.

Interestingly, many accounts we’ve been hearing involve protesters being hesitant to wear green, flash a V for victory sign, or even chant openly out of fear of backlash from security personnel.  In some cases, particularly at Azadi Square where Ahmadinejad addressed the official government rally, security forces scanned the crowd watching for any signs of “green” activity, and quickly pulled people out of the group as soon as they were given cause.

8:15 am: Indisputable. Via United4Iran, this video of protesters tearing down a photo of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and then trampling on it:

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fd4FRQXiwzc&feature=player_embedded“]

Remember that even in the heady days of protests this summer, it would have been unthinkable for protesters to deface an image of the Supreme Leader.  In a short eight months, the demands of the demonstrators have evolved, and their tactics have advanced as well.

  • 26 January 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • 5 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

That’s Mr. Supreme Leader to You?

Following the news of Mehdi Karroubi ‘recognizing’ Ahmadinejad as head of government, many are quick to label him as a traitor, or wonder why the sudden softened stance from Karroubi. Although both Khatami and Karroubi dropped their demand for a new presidential election, the reformists still maintain that the presidential election was fraudulent. According to The New York Times, Karroubi’s equally controversial and ambiguous statements have created quite a frenzy.

Mr. Karroubi’s son, Hussein Karroubi, contacted Saham News, a news service affiliated with the reform movement, to clarify that his father had not backed off any of his charges of fraud, or of protesters’ being raped and sodomized by prison staff members.

I stand firmly by the belief that cheating took place in the election and the results were doubtful, and I believe the vote count was completely rigged,” the younger Mr. Karroubi said, quoting his father, in an interview with Saham News. “However, since Mr. Khamenei endorsed Mr. Ahmadinejad, for this very reason I consider him the president of the current government of this system.” He referred to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

What is most interesting about Karroubi’s statements is the fact that he clearly defines Ahmadinejad’s legitimacy as coming from the Supreme Leader, and not the people of Iran; Karroubi continually upholds the belief that the results of the June presidential elections were fraudulent and rigged. Beyond that, referral to Supreme Leader Khamenei as “Mr.” Khamenei, rather than the more proper title of  “Ayatollah Khamenei” or “Supreme Leader Khamenei” also adds to the bold nature of Karroubi’s comments.

Perhaps this was meant as a tacit jab to Ayatollah Khamenei’s own authority. Some report that Karroubi’s use of “Mr. Khamenei” referral was not an accidental slip of the tongue, but rather meant as a deliberate insult to the Supreme Leader, citing that the comments remained unchanged on Saham News for hours.

  • 25 January 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Even More Crackdowns on Iranian Media

Radio Zamaneh reports ( via www.payvand.com)  that Iran’s Ministry of Culture has cautioned fifteen newspapers for publishing criticism of Iran’s domestic unrest following the June presidential election.

Iran’s Ministry of Culture has issued warnings for 15 newspapers for “spreading rumours” and “representing a false image of the country’s situation.” Seven of them were reprimanded for publishing the statements of Mohammad Khatami, the former president, who is currently considered as one of the chief leaders of the opposition.

Five other dailies were reprimanded for printing statements by Ali Motahari, a conservative member of the parliament.

In an interview, Ali Motahari had criticized the actions of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during the candidate debates of the presidential campaign and claimed they were at the root of the “sedition” that took place after the elections.

Motahari thus added that “if leaders of the sedition are to apologize to the people, it is only fair that Ahmadinejad also apologizes to the people too.”

Following Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in June, the Iranian government’s crackdown on objective media and the detention of journalists has increased significantly.  Reporters Without Borders is reporting that the Iranian government currently has 42 journalists and bloggers imprisoned.

  • 29 September 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

More student protests: Sharif University, Tehran

Thanks to reader Jimmy:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEkhBAGX7Y8&feature=player_embedded]

  • 18 September 2009
  • Posted By Matthew Negreanu
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

State-TV: “Iran opposition marches on Quds Day”

Press TV (state-run English TV) confirmed the participation of the supporters of leading opposition figures Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi on of the Quds Day rally. Since the opposition leaders, activists and supporters are banned and indeed have been threatened from running any peaceful protests against the government, thousands of reformist supporters used Quds Day as an opportunity to take to the streets. Yet, Reuters has reported today that opposition leaders being harassed and even attacked:

Reformist former president Mohammad Khatami took part in the rally, but was attacked by hardliners and had to leave after his robe was ripped and his turban fell to the ground, an ally of Khatami who accompanied him told Reuters. The state news agency IRNA said Mousavi and reformist cleric Mehdi Karroubi, both defeated candidates in the disputed poll in June, had also been forced to leave the rallies after being attacked by “angry people.”

Other reports suggest that supporters of the government attempted to attack Mousavi and Karroubi but were repelled by their body guards and the peaceful opposition supporters marching alongside them.

Press TV also reported that French’s Foreign Ministry condemned hardliner’s assault against former President, Mohammad Khatami.

Reacting to the reports, France’s Foreign Ministry said it was alarmed by reported violence towards Iranian opposition leaders. “France is highly concerned by reports of violence committed against leaders of the Iranian opposition,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero. In separate remarks, Iran’s Deputy Parliament Speaker Mohammad-Reza Bahonar condemned the move, saying “such acts should not be carried out on this day.” “I don’t accept aggressions and any illegal acts by any one. I don’t approve of them,” he added.

  • 18 September 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Video compilation of Quds Day protests

BBC Persian has compiled some of the videos of today’s Quds Day demonstrations, which were held in the cities of Bushehr, Rasht, Tabriz, Isfahan, Shiraz, Ahvaz, and Mashhad, in addition to the capital city of Tehran.

There is still no word yet on whether or not Mousavi attended any of the rallies today, though the three other reformist leaders Khatami, Karroubi, and Rafsanjani all made brief appearances.

BBCPersia

  • 18 September 2009
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Quds Day Protest Turns Green

The LA Times has good coverage of today’s events.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators chanting, “Not Gaza, not Lebanon, I sacrifice my life for Iran,” swarmed the streets of the capital, turning a day in support of the Palestinian cause into a major opposition rally. […]

State-controlled Iranian television showed thousands of demonstrators wearing traditional Arab scarves, holding posters of Lebanese Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and chanting “Death to Israel,” a traditional rallying cry on this holiday, which takes place on the last Friday of every Islamic calendar month of Ramadan.

But witnesses reported that demonstrators chanting anti-government slogans had taken complete control of Tehran’s expansive Seventh of Tir Square. Video posted to YouTube showed thousands of others holding up green ribbons and rallying peacefully in Tehran, Esfahan and Shiraz. Late in the morning came reports of tear gas being fired into crowds in the capital, but they could not be confirmed.

Meanwhile, Reuters has the story on opposition leaders being harassed and even attacked:

Reformist former president Mohammad Khatami took part in the rally, but was attacked by hardliners and had to leave after his robe was ripped and his turban fell to the ground, an ally of Khatami who accompanied him told Reuters.

The state news agency IRNA said Mousavi and reformist cleric Mehdi Karoubi, both defeated candidates in the disputed poll in June, had also been forced to leave the rallies after being attacked by “angry people.”

  • 16 September 2009
  • Posted By Matthew Negreanu
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Rafsanjani out; Khatami, Mousavi, Karroubi in on Quds Day

According to BBC Persian, while Hashemi Rafsanjani has traditionally led the Friday prayer in the Quds Days for last years, Iranian authorities have announced Ayatollah Seyyed Ahmad Khatami will lead Tehran’s Friday prayer and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will also speak before the sermons.

The capital’s Friday prayers headquarters announced in a Wednesday statement that Secretary-General of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) movement Ramadan Abdullah is also expected to address the crowds before the sermons. The statement came a day after Rafsanjani urged an epic turnout on Friday.

Meanwhile, mowjcamp reported on Wednesday that the Iranian government issued a statement asking companies to be flexible to the request of their employees to take the day off on the day before and after the Quds Day. Therefore, the four-day holidays (including Eid Fitr on Sunday) is expected as a way to empty Tehran from the people who have been planning to attend the Quds ceremony led by the reformist leaders (Khatami, Mousavi, and Karroubi).

Emruz also reported that Khatami has officially confirmed his attendance in the Quds Day’s rally which will be held before the Friday sermon and Prayer. Karroubi and Mousavi have previously announced their intention to participate as well.

  • 15 September 2009
  • Posted By Matthew Negreanu
  • 1 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

State-run propaganda surrounds Quds Day prayer

Three days before the important Quds Day’s ceremony in Iran, Iran’s state-run are organizing a concerted propaganda effort to mislead the public about who will lead the Friday Prayer in Tehran.

According to mowjcamp, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani has been expected to lead the Friday Prayer in Tehran on Quds day for nearly a week.  Opposition leaders Karroubi, Khatami, and Mousavi have all confirmed their participation in the rally and Friday Prayer, which will mark the last Friday of Ramadan.  However, IRNA and Fars (both pro-government news agancies) reported on Tuesday that the schedule has changed, and that  hardline cleric Ahmad Khatami will deliver the important sermon.  Additionally, President Ahmadinejad is planning to deliver a speech prior to the Friday sermon, though it was originally reported that he would do so at an alternative location, given that Rafsanjani would be in Tehran.

The rumors appear to be intended to spread confusion about the events surrounding the Quds Day prayer ceremonies, possibly contributing to the opposition’s lack of organization in planning demonstrations.  Rafsanjani has yet to officially deny the claims that he will not in fact be delivering the prayer in Tehran.

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Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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