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Occupy AIPAC: Sign Language

Cross posted from Student Reporting:

angry people.jpg talking2.jpg

Occupy AIPAC was a summit timed to coincide with the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference. Occupy AIPAC participants gathered to discuss issues, such as Iran, the Arab Uprising, Palestine and the affects of AIPAC in determining U.S. foreign policy on these topics. On Sunday, Occupy AIPAC activists rallied outside of the Walter E. Washington convention center, where hours earlier, President Obama and important names in the foreign policy world gave their speeches to the AIPAC Policy Conference attendees.

The purpose of the rally was to warn the American people of what the activists saw as the dangerous and overwhelming influence that AIPAC was having on United States’ foreign policy. Messages of justice for the Palestinian people and peace with Iran echoed throughout the event. Keynote speakers from activist organizations, musical performances, and poetry readings accompanied the long day of protest.

Although tensions were high between the opposing sides earlier that day, a patient few waited to the end of the AIPAC conference and greeted the AIPAC members as they exited the building. Despite the high emotions and impassioned speeches from earlier in the day, people from both sides of the issue came together on the sidewalks and began to respectfully share ideas, opinions, and stories.

I had the opportunity to speak with the diverse group of activists at the event. The following profiles present the various perspectives of these activists:


Name: Grant

Age: 46

From: Washington, D.C.

Occupation: Director of Research Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy

Why are you out here today?

“Because you can’t just sit in an office and blog all day, you have to come out into the street you have to take actions that are visible you have to bring people out to protest in a peaceful, non-violent way and show, in this case AIPAC attendees, that we are opposed to their initiatives to launch war on Iran, to illegal settlements, to unwarranted influence in Congress that has no regulatory oversight whatsoever.”

Advice for Obama Administration on Iran:

“He needs to open a diplomatic presence. Why don’t they open up an embassy like the one they just built in Iraq in Iran—it is an extremely important country. They need to stop taking advice from the Israelis, who are absolutely hysterical about their IAEA regulated civilian nuclear program. They need to disregard AIPAC’s political pressure and go straight to the American people and say we’re not going to let Israel drive our foreign policy; we’re going to talk to Iran.”

  • 3 May 2010
  • Posted By NIAC
  • Events in Iran

May Day in Tehran: The protest you may have missed

Though most Iran watchers this weekend focused on the impromptu protest which followed Ahmadinejad’s surprise speech at Tehran University, another tense gathering occurred outside the Labor Ministry.

Approximately five thousand people were walking outside of the Labor Ministry on Saturday, May 1st around 5:30 pm in honor of International Labour Day. Factory workers have been increasingly laid off due to Ahmadinejad’s short sighted policies to fix Iran’s severely weakened economy.

One participant who found out about the event through a text message told NIAC, “There was a guy videotaping us from the beginning and he followed us everywhere, it was very nerve racking. There were also undercover cops everywhere so you didn’t know who to trust.” Our contact suspected he was being followed because he was accompanied by two other young men.

According to Iran News Agency (INA), an opposition site, three people were arrested. INA also confirms our contact’s description of a “very tense atmosphere.”

The gathering followed Mir Hossein Mousavi’s message on Thursday, April 29. As IGV reported, he, “cited inflation, decline in production, corruption, the spread of deceit and mismanagement, unpaid wages of workers, the continuing shut down of plants and their operating at low capacity, as some of the current problems in the country.”

In comparison to protests last year, it would seem that this one was a failure. If people stood in groups of more than ten, motorcycle cops would run up to them and break them apart and only about fifty daring people started to chant anti-government slogans, but were quickly silenced.

But the failure of this protest is only on the surface, by taking a deeper look, it shows the paranoia of the Iranian government. The opposition did little to spread the word about the event as nothing was written on Mousavi’s Facebook page and only a few websites had mentioned the possibility of a gathering. Unlike the little preparatory work by the opposition, the Iranian police were out in full force with hundreds of motorcycle and undercover cops videotaping and methodically breaking up groups—once again displaying their fear and paranoia.

What the government has is force and perhaps it can successfully stop people from protesting, but it is not sustainable. Rather than creating new ways to improve Iran’s weakened economy, the government is using its resources to monitor and control their own citizens. As our contact told us, “I don’t think we’ll be able to have the same level of protests as last summer, but this does not mean that our fight is over.”

  • 7 December 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

“Basiji! How much money do you get to wield that baton?”

This video from today’s protests in Iran (the exact location is unconfirmed), posted on Facebook, shows hundreds of protesters chanting, ” Basiji! How much money do you get to wield that baton?”

A young participant who witnessed and participated in the protests today at Tehran University and Amir Kabir University noted the increase use of force by the Basij. “Normally, the riot police hit people to break up groups from forming,” he said, but today, the Basij were indiscriminate in their use of force, apparently hitting any and everyone in sight.

  • 3 November 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • Events in Iran

Protesters ask themselves- “Where do we meet?”

Tomorrow is a much anticipated for Iran watchers- but for the protesters taking the streets, it is filled with uncertainty. They don’t know how the police will respond but the bigger problem that has plagued the opposition since their mass arrests is uncertainty of where to protest.

Facebook, Twitter, e-mail communication and telephones are all off limits as the government is thoroughly monitoring them. Students at Tehran University turned to what now seems like an ancient form of organizing- flyers. Each night, they put up flyers, only to see the police clean them up in the morning before class started. Teachers have been put in an uncomfortable position as the police have asked them to turn students who have been engaging in anti-government activities. Although as one teacher jokingly responded when asked by an officer if she knew anything, “Even if I knew, I wouldn’t tell you.” Pleading ignorance seems to be the best excuse for teachers.

So, despite the opposition’s best attempts to organize and inform supporters of where to meet, people are still confused. The police have given permission for people to protest in front of the old US Embassy and have warned that they will arrest gathering anywhere else. Mehdi Karroubi is planning to make an appearance at 10:30 am, supposedly at Haft-e-Tir Square…but who knows obstacles may thwart his plan.

  • 28 September 2009
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Back in school, students return to protests


The BBC has the story.

Students in Iran have demonstrated against the government at Tehran University on the first day of the new academic year.

Footage posted on websites showed several hundred people chanting slogans against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Eyewitnesses said students were not allowed into an official ceremony attended by a government minister to mark the start of term.

Reports say a large number of police officers were in the area.

One eyewitness, Mehdi, told BBC Persian that around 200-300 people had gathered in Tehran university by 1030 local time.

“Demonstrators were holding up green balloons and chanting slogans such as ‘Government of the coup, resign! Resign!’ and ‘Down with the dictator’,” he said.

Post-election violence

A counter demonstration was staged by supporters of the president, who was re-elected in a disputed election in June.

There were no reports of clashes between the two factions.

  • 18 September 2009
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Video Reveals Size of Crowds

This video, which appears to be from Valiasr Square, shows a very substantial “green” presence in today’s Quds day protest.


Update: Reader Jimmy has passed on a link to a collection of more than 80 videos of today’s opposition protests. Thanks!

  • 27 July 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009

“State TV, Shame on You!” Chant Iranians


July 25 in Tehran: Iranians took to the streets and with a new chant, “State TV, shame on you!” followed by “Honorable Iranians, support us!”

Sign the Petition


7,350 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.



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