For the past three months there have been a number of articles written in response to the National Geographic's alteration of the legally and historically recognized terminology of the body of water known as the Persian Gulf as well as the islands of Kish and Lavan (refer to the 2005 edition of Almanac of World History and Atlas of the World).
It is worth noting that the national Geographic's e-mail system became besieged by a flood of protest letters sent by both Iranians and non-Iranians, who simply found the actions of that organization inappropriate. In addition, a petition requesting that the NGS make the proper corrections to its Almanac was prepared. Thousands of concerned citizens signed this document, which proved to be effective that resulted in appropriate changes by the NGS.
The collective defense of the Persian Gulf's heritage has also sparked off a few articles by authors who not only criticized these actions, but also accuse the parties of these actions as being ultra-nationalistic. An example of this viewpoint is voiced in the article entitled “The gulf wars, what's in a name” by Samira Mohyeddin.
It is difficult to comprehend why an individual would take issue with a legitimate academic, legal and historical defense of a nation's heritage. It would seem that Ms. Mohyeddin has failed to distinguish between educated and peace-loving Iranians (and non-Iranians who support their position) from a small number of fringe chauvinists, who are to be found in any culture. These fanatics have begun the game of changing historical facts for political and racist motives. Defending the legitimacy and historical validity of an entity or issue does certainly not make one a chauvinist. In that case, Jews who defend the historical validity of the horrors of the Holocaust are chauvinists, according to the logic postulated by Ms. Mohyeddin.
The theme of Ms. Mohyeddin's article fails to acknowledge that the grass-roots protests from Iranians (and non-Iranians) of all stripes were simply meant to redress a serious error; this movement was void of any ill-intent nor was it directed against any particular ethnic group. Simply put, the Iranians had no choice but to defend their heritage.
It is interesting that Ms. Mohyeddin has chosen to shy away from the geo-political motives and machinations of the term “Arabian Gulf”. Simply put, she does balance her arguments with the possibility that the term “Arabian Gulf" may itself be a fictitious and even racist term, void of legal and historical legitimacy. Ms. Mohyeddin's accusations against Iranians dangerously detract the reader from the main issues. The term (Arabian Gulf) has its origins in pan-Arabism, Oil Imperialism as well as economic considerations. [The reader may wish to consult this.]
Ms. Mohyeddin refers to the Persian Gulf Organization (PGO) as a self appointed task force and even accuses it of being anti-Arab. First, the Persian Gulf Organization, is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) which was created to defend the legacy of the “Persian Gulf”, an unalterable historical fact for more than two thousand years. Second, NGOs are supposed to be self appointed. They are created to fill in the shortcomings of their government.
On the subject of this case, the Islamic Republic so far has refused to defend any aspects of Persia's (Iran's) ancient identity as well as the Legacy of the Persian Gulf in the face of a select number of Arabian fanatics that started the attempt of name change four decades ago. It is significant that Ms. Mohyeddin has failed to mention that many Arabs are opposed to altering the name of the Persian Gulf. For the past few months, numerous e-mails have been received from friendly Arabs of Persian Gulf countries in support of the cause of the PGO.
Ms. Mohyeddin's article is also an affront to those Arabs who work hard towards peace, stability and fraternity in the region. Third, no anti-Arab references or rhetoric of any nature are to be found on the website of the Persian Gulf organization. It is not clear as to why Ms. Mohyeddin has chosen silence in the face of certain pan-Arabian chauvinists. In the same, and as noted above, any action at defending Persia's heritage is labeled as racist. In that case, any one who resists any form of cultural appropriation is a racist. Ms. Mohyeddin's arguments are evidently simplistic.
It is grossly unfair for Ms. Mohyeddin to question Iranian's unity, resolve and track record at defending their human rights in the face of the Islamic Republic regime. She basically states that Iranians are quick to unite when faced with attacks against their territorial integrity but lack the principles to stand up for human rights. As before, these postulations are misinformed and simplistic.
For Ms. Mohyeddin's information, there are well over six thousand active NGOs in Iran and several of them have dedicated themselves to actively campaign for human rights within Iran and question their regimes track record on human rights. Ms. Mohyeddin is advised to read up on the current affairs and news of Iran's to see how many people in the Islamic Republic are suffering in prison as a result of their human rights activities. They certainly have the support of human rights activists among us and all over the world. We have always voiced our concerns and we will continue to do so.
No nation or people has been able to disassociate itself from their territorial integrity. How would a country continue to exist without having the right to defend its heritage and territorial integrity? Territorial integrity of a country in the face of foreign conspiracies certainly has priority over internal affairs. In that case, according to the logic postulated by Ms. Mohyeddin, the Russians, French, Belgians, Dutch, British, Yugoslavs, Greeks, or Poles who fought against Nazi territorial aggression and cultural appropriation were being racist simply because they were trying to defend themselves.
In her last paragraph, Ms. Mohyeddin compares the heinous crimes of the Islamic Republic against its own citizens with that of the National Geographic's recent errors. This is analogous to comparing oranges with apples. What is the relationship between name alteration by a prestigious journal and the violation of human rights by a Near eastern regime? This unclear comparison is made in the context of her failure to explain as to why the protests against name change shouldn't have taken place.
Geopolitical nomenclature is laden with latent motives and dangers to peace. As soon as a name is changed, a certain “history” and “legitimacy” for that name is concomitantly invented; truly a Trojan Horse in politics. Has the bloody invasion of Mr. Saddam Hussein been forgotten? Pan-Arabist ideology has long advocated name change for the Persian islands, Iran's southwestern regions (Khuzistan) and the Persian Gulf itself. Saddam Hussein fought for 8 years to achieve pan-Arab aspirations, and failed. The Iranian men and women who resisted Mr. Saddam Hussein's invasion were like the aforementioned Russians, French, Belgians, Dutch, British, Yugoslavs, Greeks, or Poles, who simply fought to maintain their legacy, territorial integrity, and human dignity.
There are still forces who hope to re-ignite the pan-Arab aspirations of violent conquest. Ms. Samira Mohyeddin can be reassured of one thing, despite her objections: Iranians will unite and defend their territorial integrity and dignity, as they have for thousands of years. If there is nothing in a name, then why does she fail to examine and critique those parties who advocate the change of historical names?
Finally, Ms. Mohyeddin fails to balance her arguments by praising the Iranians for respecting the names of other geographical entities in the region such as the Shat al-Arab river, the Gulf of Oman, and the Arabian Sea. The Iranians have certainly respected, and will continue to respect the Arab legacy in those regions and as a people.
Amir Naghshineh-Pour is an aerospace engineer living in San Diego, California. He is active in the Persian Gulf Online “persiangulfonline.org“, Iran Heritage “ iran-heritage.org“, and Iran Alliance “iranalliance.org” organizations.