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  • 18 June 2010
  • Posted By Sherry Safavi
  • 2 Comments
  • discrimination, Human Rights in Iran, Iranian Youth, UN

Iran Rejects UN Accountability for Baha’i Treatment

The Baha’i International Community expressed its deep disappointment with Iran’s refusal to adopt recommendations made by the UN during Iran’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR).  Iran’s Secretary General of the High Council for Human Rights, Mohammad Javad Larijani, brazenly rejected a number of the council’s key human rights concerns and accused the Baha’i International Community of acting on behalf of Western powers.

“We are deeply disturbed by the Iranian government’s refusal to accept basic recommendations concerned with ending injustice, persecution and discrimination in that country,” a representative of the Baha’i International Community said at the meeting.

The UPR recommendations aimed to end discrimination against Baha’is and the Iranian government’s repression of the community, among many other recommendations about human rights in Iran.  Specifically, the council called on Iran’s government to do away with policies restricting Baha’i access to universities and official lists barring Baha’is from pursuing twenty five different professions.

Despite the statements of 26 states urging Iran to account for their human rights violations against the Baha’i community, Larijani flatly denied many of the allegations. “Baha’is enjoy full civil and citizenship right[s] in Iran… The government is supporting all of their economic activity.  They go to school, they go to universities …I can name for you more than 200 students at universities,” he told the council last Thursday.

The findings of the Human Rights Watch would suggest otherwise.

One Human Rights Watch report detailed how the Iranian government had denied some 800 students access to their school transcripts. The students had logged onto their student accounts only to be informed that their transcript was “incomplete.” Students complained that school officials had ignored their efforts to address the issue.

The Baha’i religion is not recognized by government authorities and Baha’i’s face severe consequences for the practice of their faith, which the government has characterized as participation in cult-like activity.  The roots of this discrimination can be traced back to the Iranian government’s interpretation of the Baha’i faith as a divergence from Islam and its practitioners as a heretic sect.

“One thing we are against and we are not going to hide it, we are against any cult type, sect type activity. Even if it is a Shiah sect we will ban them… This is the main accusation of [the Baha’i] people who are right now under pursuance of law,” Larijani contended.

Moreover, Larijani rebuked the Baha’i International Community, accusing them of parroting the United States.  Such allegations are not new. Just like the government’s efforts to undermine the Green Movement by painting it as a stooge of the “foreign agents,” their accusations against the BIC ring just as hollow.

Government officials have suggested the Green Movement is a Western ploy. They have accused various Western countries of staging the death of Neda Agha-Soltan. Her tragic death, caught on video, during the 2009 presidential election protests has became a visible symbol of the Iranian government’s repression, but sadly, there are dozens or hundreds of similar situations throughout Iran that could resonate just as strongly.  The abysmal treatment of the Baha’is is one of them.

  • 10 January 2008
  • Posted By Sara Shokravi
  • 2 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in DC

Friendship on the Fault Lines

It is tragic when the only thing that is able to transcend bellicose rhetoric and confrontational policies is a catastrophe that flattens an entire city and consumes 50,000 lives in one night. In 2003 an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.6 destroyed the 2,000 year old citadel of Bam, entrapping and burying the inhabitants as the ancient city came crumbling down. Among those buried were Adele Freedman and Tobb Dell’Oro, two American tourists. Jahangir Golestan’s documentary, BAM 6.6, tells the intertwining stories of these two individuals along with the Iranians surrounding them.

The aim of the movie is to show how human empathy “transcends geopolitical differences with a simple message of love and hope amidst tragedy, unfolding through the story of two young American victims of this devastating earthquake.” Despite the uplifting feel good aura of the movie, what caught my attention was the international aid that poured into Bam particularly that from the United States.

Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

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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