IraNexus: NIAC’s latest brainchild proves it’s worth by helping in the crusade to save the Persian Gulf.

Behrouz Bahmani February 10, 2005


IraNexus is an extensive network of Iranian-American organizations across the US. IraNexus currently has over 50 community based groups signed up with more joining each day. It allows you to find a group who may be dedicated to cause or have a specialty that you need.

It is a completely free service and anyone can use and access it's contents. Although no personal private informationis stored, there are some required fields and all submissions are verified before being made available to the general public.

By connecting organizations, IraNexus enables our community to respond immediately and effectively to discriminatory policies, humanitarian emergencies, and other issues.

To learn more about IraNexus please Click Here

8weeks ago, we all began hearing the first rumblings of the National Geographic's Persian Gulf debacle concerning the updated 8th edition of their world atlas and the controversial inclusion (in parentheses) of the words “Arabian Gulf” below it's historically relevant and rightful label.

In the old days what would have happened was some emails would have gone back and forth for about a month before anyone suggested the now outdated and altogether useless activity of signing a petition, and someone agreeing to fax it from their office (as soon as the boss left).

Here's how times have changed. Following is a step by step action log of the activities leading up to the community's reaction to the National Geographic's cartographical blunder;

As soon as the first emails from the community began to surface, from people like Pejman Akbarzadeh in Tehran who is the keeper of all things Persian, people began sending out alerts to their respective email lists, and blogs began clogging with reaction.

NIAC's Executive Director, Dokhi Fassihian, someone caught perpetually in “the loop”, received the many emails along with others from NIAC members and began to monitor the growing “chatter”.

All too often we have seen too many community groups led by self sacrificing (and self appointed) concerned board members, tear off to fight for an issue without first getting the support and backing of the very community they intend to serve. This often leads to accusations and criticisms, and although their intention may be noble, their demonstrated lack of respect for the voice of the community backfires.

Not so with NIAC's approach. Rather than act on it's own, NIAC takes realistic action on feasible issues they have a real chance of winning based on real feedback it receives from it's members and the community in general. All of this within very limited resources. Frugality is the keyword here. Because of this approach, some accuse NIAC of not acting as quickly as possible, or not acting at all (on issues of fringe concern to the general community). But by reacting to community feedback, at least you know there is community support before you get going on an issue. Smart and very democratic if you stop to think about it.

Over the next 2 weeks, NIAC received dozens of emails and telephone calls by the community asking about the issue and what was being done about it. This was serious feedback, and a clear call to action.

As in previous situations NIAC had successfully used a strategy we will call “Pressured Engagement”. Take for instance, one of the leading job sites took it upon itself to discriminate against Iranian resumes, or another example was the Don Imus nationally syndicated morning radio program, in which Imus commented callously on the insignificance of Iranian deaths from an Iranian passenger plane crash near Kish.

This time however, NIAC went to it's newly launched community organization database aptly named IraNexus. In this database which catalogs the many community groups in the US, was the Persian Gulf Task Force (PGTF) a group dedicated specifically to the preservation of the name of the Persian Gulf. Asking Dr. Mohammad Ala the director of PGTF, what they could do to help, NIAC quickly digested what PGTF was already doing, and crafted and coordinated a complementary response.

Rather than send hollow emails to an even hollower general inbox, or send mail to the organization's main address, NIAC staff contacted the National Geographic offices and gained the email address of the President of the National Geographic, as well as the chief cartographer (the person who actually makes the maps!). They then engaged a nifty mechanism called an “Action Alert” which notified thousands of subscirbers across the country about the issue. Quick, clear, action.

Within days, the 36 groups that have already been added to Iranexus had signed an official letter objecting to the National Geographic's gulf name change, and thousands of emails were pouring into the email boxxes of the NG executives. From every corner of the country, becasue part of the strategy was that NIAC asked the groups to send the action alert at their local level, to magnify the spread.

It worked. Soon Iranians abroad in Canada, Europe, Australia and even Iran began requesting that the alert be reformatted to include them as well.

On December 6, 2004 NIAC met with the President of the National Geographic to discuss the issue. In the end, the islands issue was corrected to the favor of the community, and the variant term used on the map in paranthesis was removed and replaced with small-font explanatory text reconfirming the Persian Gulf's proper status. Although the term still was used in this text, the victory was huge. It was something the Japanese were unable to do when the Sea of Japan was subclassified as East Sea by the National Geographic in 1999. As a result of extenive lobbying by the Koreans, that body of water is still subclassified on National Geographic's maps with two names, East Sea in paranthesis.

Having won the fight against subclassification, NIAC is continuing its pressure on National Geographic to ensure that no variant name is used for the the Persian Gulf on its maps in any shape or form.

At the meeting, John Fahey President of the National Geographic, clearly impressed by the response quipped, “Your megaphone works!”

In the end, an attack (knowingly or unknowingly) against our culture was made, and was responded to quickly and maturely by the community, acting together. NIAC's IraNexus showed it can play an viable and effective role in enabling the response as we move forward, faster, into the breach of community activism.

To add themselves to the IraNexus database and network, groups need only fill out a short form which defines their area of expertise so it is visible on the site, the idea being collaboration, and stopping the re-inventing-the-wheelism that is all too often the case with Iranian groups today. The idea is to use the strengths of each group and work with and combine yours with theirs to accomplish greater goals. No more going it alone. That's just stupid.

NIAC does not endorse the members in IraNexus for obvious reasons but once it has a cause or issue, it will use the database to locate and work with the group(s) most likely to have the resources or expertise to help mobilize as many Iranians as posible. All groups can use this tool in the same manner and organizations can maintain their independence to choose the issues they wish to cllaborate on.

One would hope that the community will realize the tremendous power of our collective voice against a threat to our rights, and those disparate groups that are currently operating in their own voids might find their way to the fountain. Who knows what we may be capable of doing, if we adopted the today far concept of teamwork. If you know what I mean.

To learn more about IraNexus and how you can benefit from it, please Click Here

To learn more about NIAC please visit their website: Click Here

To learn more about how you can help to protect the Persian Gulf: Click Here

The Iranian Letters Section

the writer Behrouz Bahmani

Other Articles by Behrouz Bahmani

ALSO Behrouz Bahmani Features in

RELATED Diaspora in

Book of the day

Shahnameh Three volume box set of the Persian Book of Kings Translated by Dick Davis

Meet Iranian Singles

Iranian Singles

Recipient Of The Serena Shim Award

Serena Shim Award
Meet your Persian Love Today!
Meet your Persian Love Today!