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  • 26 October 2010
  • Posted By Lily Samimi
  • Events in Iran

New Educational Restrictions on Youth in Iran

Two recent announcements by Iran’s hardliners signal renewed efforts to repress Iranian youth.

A senior official at the Education Ministry has announced that Iran will not allow “western” influenced courses in universities and will review 12 humanities disciplines to make them compatible with “Islamic teachings”. According to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, humanities studies are not compatible with “Islamic teaching” as they are based on materialism.  This would imply that disciplines such as human rights and women’s studies are based on principles of materialism and do not follow the theories of Islam.

Two weeks ago, the Supreme Leader declared that the private financial endowment of Azad (meaning free in Farsi) University as religiously illegitimate, leading the way for government take-over. Azad University, supported by former President Rafsanjani, was a major site for the opposition protests in the June 2009 election.

Eliminating humanities studies and making universities more religiously-oriented will not stop the youth from gravitating towards and appropriating western culture, no matter how harshly Iranian government officials crack down on men’s mullets and women’s nail polish.

On the positive side, a representative at the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs announced that there has been a lot of progress in improving primary education levels for young Iranian girls. An increased literacy rate at 77.4 percent in Iranian girls living in villages all across Iran, gives these underprivileged youth a chance at higher education.

But a study done by the Dubai Initiative discusses Iran’s youth population in today’s tough economic times. Iran has the highest share of youth of any country in the world, with 60% of its total population between ages 15 and 29 . With 57 percent of university students studying humanities, cutting down on these disciplines is going to have a drastic impact on the youth population’s outlook. Getting into university in Iran is a study on its own with an 85 percent fail rate on the concour (Iran’s college entrance exam). And Iran is in the midst of economic recession that has left many youth unemployed.

Here’s an idea. Why don’t we allow more of these smart, savvy, young Iranians come to the United States for college. Where they have the option to study whatever they want and become the future innovators of the world. Not only is it a brain gain for the US, but it will allow so many of the young Iranian generation to flourish in an environment where they can express their beliefs and ideals without feeling the wrath of repression hanging over them. But until the Single Entry Visa Policy is corrected and more visas are available for Iranian students, we will continue to hear about increasing Iranian government crackdowns and have little to offer but sympathy.

Iranian 9/11 Hero: STEP Act a Mistake

Shahram's story became well known after Newsweek featured a photo of him.

New York – When Shahram Hashemi saw an airplane fly into the second World Trade Center building and smoke spewing from the first tower, he knew it wasn’t an accident. So Shahram, a young Iranian university student who had only been in the U.S. for three years, made a remarkable decision. As others fled the scene, Shahram found himself running toward the epicenter of the worst terrorist attack ever seen on American soil.

“A few minutes after the first tower collapsed, I found myself in a war zone,” Shahram said.  In the middle of the chaos, he began helping move shocked and confused people away from the towers to a safe place.

Seeing him in his business suit, a local fire chief threw his heavy coat over Shahram’s shoulders and handed him a mask. Just then, the second tower began to buckle and he sought refuge in the nearby AmEx Building. Emerging from the building, Shahram joined a group of civilian volunteers to extinguish fires and clear rubble for the search and rescue teams. All day he worked until the soot, dust and exhaustion took hold of him.

That day, Shahram helped save over a dozen lives – while here in America on a student visa.

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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