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  • 23 April 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 3 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Sanctions, UN

Changing Course on Iran Sanctions

This post appeared in today’s The Hill newspaper.

New sanctions on Iran are about the surest bet in Washington these days.

Both the House and the Senate have passed a “crippling” gasoline embargo, and the administration has all but given up talk of negotiations in favor of pressing for UN Security Council sanctions “that bite.” In fact, the only thing left that the administration and Congress disagree on is whether the new sanctions should target all of Iranian society or just the hardliners in power — not an insignificant disagreement by any measure, but one that underscores the broader acceptance of the argument that new sanctions are the only game in town.

But given the fact that the U.S. has sanctioned Iran for decades with little to show for it, the debate over U.S.-Iran policy should not be boiled down to a question of how much more damage we can do. Rather, smart power dictates that the U.S. use every tool available, including those that have been taken off the table, such as lifting certain sanctions.

No one expects the U.S. to unilaterally lift its embargo on Iran. But certain sanctions have unambiguously failed to achieve their objective, contributing instead to the suffering of ordinary Iranians. These should be reexamined, and where appropriate, lifted.

  • 31 December 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 4 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

NIAC calls for Disarmament of Basij Paramilitary to Ensure Security for Iranian Citizens

Contact: Phil Elwood
917.379.3787

For Immediate Release

Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) strongly condemns the campaign of intimidation being carried out by the Iranian government against its citizens through the Basij paramilitary.  NIAC calls on the Iranian government to disarm the Basij immediately and to end the violent repression of the Iranian people.

In the months following the disputed Iranian presidential elections, the Basij has been responsible for a brutal, escalating campaign of violence, both targeted and indiscriminate, aimed at silencing and intimidating Iranians attempting to express themselves freely and assemble peacefully.

The Basij is a volunteer paramilitary force that has evolved from a decentralized morality police into a full scale armed militia that receives orders from the highest levels of the Iranian government.

“To permit an armed, above-the-law, para-military group to roam the streets in the name of security is a contradiction in terms,” said Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council. “Security, free expression, free assembly and the full enjoyment of universal rights cannot occur as long as the Iranian government permits armed groups to suppress the Iranian people.”

Extensive documentation assembled by human rights organizations and the United Nations demonstrate that the Iranian government has utilized the Basij to terrorize its population through intentional physical harm, leading to scores of injuries and deaths.  During the most recent events on the holiday of Ashura, witnesses described Basijis bloodying protestors with batons, wooden sticks and metal pipes, firing live rounds into crowds, and running vehicles over innocent demonstrators.  Basijis on motorcycles use truncheons, tear-gas, pepper-spray, water cannons, chains, plastic bullets, and live ammunition to intimidate, injure, and kill peaceful demonstrators.  In one instance, a protester was tied to the back of a van and dragged through the street.  In other instances, students were thrown out of dormitory windows and off bridges.

The Basij’s repression is not limited to the acts of violence committed in public areas against demonstrators and bystanders, but also is carried out through violent nighttime raids in which they seek to suppress protesters chanting from their rooftops.  Reportedly, Basijis break into homes, ruthlessly beat residents, destroy property and even shoot live rounds to silence people at their own residences.

It is apparent that the Basijis receive orders from the highest levels of the Iranian government and have significant access to arms, yet there has been no accountability for the violence they have inflicted upon innocent Iranians.

The United Nations General Assembly passed resolution 64/176 on December 18, detailing the “use of violence and intimidation by Government-directed militias” that have resulted in “numerous deaths and injuries.” The resolution expresses concern regarding the Iranian government’s “ongoing, systemic and serious restrictions of freedom of peaceful assembly and association and freedom of opinion and expression,” and calls on Iran to allow entry to and cooperate fully with UN human rights rapporteurs.

The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expressed shock following the upsurge in state supported violence during Ashura events and called on the government to restrain its security forces.  “People have a right to express their feelings, and to hold peaceful protests, without being beaten, clubbed and thrown into jail,” Pillay stated.

Human rights organizations have submitted extensive documentation as part of Iran’s upcoming Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council in February detailing the Iranian government and the Basij’s appalling abuses.  These organizations have called on the UN Human Rights Council to address violations by Iran of several covenants to which the government is party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Social, Economic, and Cultural Rights (ICESR), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

The UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials provides that security forces must utilize nonviolent means before resorting to force, and such force must be proportionate and be subjected to an effective reporting and review process.  The code also provides that firearms must not be used unless there is an imminent threat to life and only when strictly avoidable to protect life.

“Not only does the Basij paramilitary not abide by these international regulations, it is clear the force is being used in violation of international law as an armed pressure group to inflict fear, injury and death on those who disagree with the government,” said Dokhi Fassihian, of NIAC’s Board of Directors.

NIAC calls on the Iranian government to disarm the Basij, to instruct all security forces to refrain from the use of force against peaceful demonstrators, and to immediately halt state-sanctioned violence against the Iranian people

  • 31 December 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 2 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Sanctions

NIAC Applauds Shift Toward Targeted Sanctions

Contact: Phil Elwood
917.379.3787

For Immediate Release

Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council welcomes the Obama administration’s decision to pursue targeted sanctions on Iran’s leaders rather than indiscriminate sanctions that would contribute to the suffering of the Iranian people.

“As the Iranian people continue to bravely stand up for their rights, NIAC has been calling on the Administration not to punish the Iranian people for the activities of their government,” said Dokhi Fassihian, member of NIAC’s Board of Directors.  “We are pleased that the Obama administration is committed to pressuring Tehran in a way that spares innocent people unnecessary suffering.”

In Congressional testimony submitted before the House Oversight Committee’s National Security Subcommittee in December, NIAC President Trita Parsi said that “after the groundbreaking developments of this past summer, continuing to ignore the impact additional broad sanctions will have on the Iranian people’s struggle for democracy will only come at our own peril.”

A noticeable shift has occurred in Washington’s plans for Iran sanctions in the new year.  The White House has told leading lawmakers that the Administration does not support untargeted sanctions legislation aimed broadly at the Iranian economy that would punish innocent Iranians. Senior US officials have told journalists that they prefer more targeted measures over so-called “crippling” sanctions because of the desire not to have the Iranian people blame the United States for their isolation.  “We have to be deft at this, because it matters how the Iranian people interpret their isolation — whether they fault the regime or are fooled into thinking we are to blame,” stated a senior official.

NIAC has supported legislation that is designed to target Iranian officials responsible for human rights violations, while at the same time taking steps to remove harmful restrictions on the Iranian people’s access to information, basic rights and freedoms.

NIAC reiterates its call for lawmakers to support measures that stand with the Iranian people, and calls on Congress to support the President’s strategy for dealing with Iran

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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