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Two-year election anniversary marked by silent protests, death of Hoda Saber

On the second anniversary of Iran’s fraudulent presidential elections, brave Iranian men and women took to the streets once again in silent and peaceful protests. According to eyewitnesses, “demonstrators numbered in thousands” and were greeted by massive numbers of armed security and military forces at every corner. In a phone interview with the Guardian, one eye witness said, “their numbers were ten times more than an ordinary day in Vali-e-Asr street, I think around 30,000 people were out there in total.” The demonstrators walked the sidewalks of main streets in silence and refused to respond to the Revolutionary Guard’s roaring motorcycles and insulting comments.

Soon after the start of the protests, members of the guard, security and military forces attacked the protestors, beating many and arresting some. According to an eyewitness testimony on Kalameh, “anyone wearing or carrying anything green was arrested. A few young men, in green T-shirts, were quickly arrested. One of the undercover officers angrily smashed the head of one of the boys on the door of the vehicle, shouting ‘Mousavi and the color green are forever dead!’ before forcing the boy into a van filled with protestors.”

The election anniversary was also marked by the sudden death of imprisoned journalist and activist Reza Hoda Saber after an eight-day hunger strike, adding to the heartache and anger of many Iranians. Hoda Saber began his strike on June 2 as a protest to the treatment and death of Haleh Sahabi, who herself was killed when she was temporarily released from prison to pay respects at the funeral of her father, Ezatollah Sahabi.

Hoda Saber was reportedly taken to Modarres hospital due to complaints of chest pain, where the cause of his death was announced to be a heart attack. The sad irony is that it seems, according to the Iranian government at least, that the fate of imprisoned activists in Iran is all the same: death, caused by a heart attack.  According to Tehran Bureau, “doctors have said that if he had been brought to the hospital in a timely fashion, he would not have died.”  Meanwhile, Iranian authorities deny Hoda Saber was on a hunger strike in the first place.

Yesterday, however, sixty-four of his prison mates signed a witness testimony that was published on Kalameh by anonymous ‘green’ allies at the Evin prison. They testify that Hoda Saber was a healthy, active man who worked out everyday and did not have any illness in the year he had spent in the prison.

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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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