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May 7, 2012

NIAC Calls on Google to Reinstate Accurate Title for Persian Gulf

Contact: Jamal Abdi
Phone: 202-386-6325
Email: [email protected]

Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to immediately reinstate the name “Persian Gulf” in its Google Maps application and to ensure all of its informational products include the historically accurate, internationally recognized, and politically neutral title for the Persian Gulf.

“Google is not sidestepping a political controversy here, they are helping create one,” said NIAC President Trita Parsi. “By removing the internationally recognized name of the Persian Gulf, Google is opening up a debate that serves no purpose but to escalate tensions and help the region’s unaccountable governments exploit ethnic and political divisions for their own gain.”

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed, with even the ancient Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing the “Aquarius Persico.” The legal precedent of the nomenclature is also not in dispute, with the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names acknowledging the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” All six bordering Arab countries have also signed on to United Nations directives declaring the body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

Google is not the first company to fall prey to politicization of the Persian Gulf. In 2004, the National Geographic Society mistakenly used “Arabian Gulf” on its maps, and NIAC worked with the organization to successfully correct the mistake. But Google’s latest action follows a 2008 controversy in which the company began including the term “Arabian Gulf” alongside “Persian Gulf” in its Google Earth application, a move protested by NIAC.

“Willful ignorance on Google’s part is completely unacceptable,” said Parsi. “By opening the door to political games with the name of this body of water, Google is abdicating its role as a curator of information and risks veering into propagandist territory.”

The false debate of “Persian Gulf” versus “Arabian Gulf” was first created in the 20th century as a tool by colonial and pan-Arab interests to rally the Arab public against non-Arabs, namely the people of Iran and Israel. The term was deployed in the propaganda efforts of such notorious figures including Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Recently, the Iranian government and the Persian Gulf states have seized on the latest controversy as part of escalating tensions in efforts to drum up nationalist sentiments.

In an open letter to Google CEO Larry Page, the National Iranian American Council is calling on the company to immediately use the proper nomenclature in reference to the Persian Gulf in all of its informational applications. The letter is open for signatures from the public and will be sent to Mr. Page on Monday, May 14, 2012.





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