A Report on a New Wave of Persian Gulf Name Abuse

Originally at http://www.payvand.com/news/06/jan/1049.html

By Pejman Akbarzadeh
English Translation : Daniel Pourkesali

Source: Persian Heritage


In the immediate aftermath of National Geographic’s inclusion of an improper label for the Persian Gulf in their latest 2005 World Atlas edition last year, we reacted by setting up a few exhibits of historical maps, renaming a street in south Tehran and calling a freeway hundreds of miles to the north the Persian Gulf Highway, rest assured that the world will now call this waterway by it proper name.


Perhaps we should all be thankful to National Geographic for including a bogus name for the Persian Gulf as it served as a catalyst to unite us against those who wish to change, undermine or ignore historical facts. Unfortunately, all the immediate uproar, renaming of roads, and setting up a few local exhibits, has mainly served a domestic audience and not translated into any meaningful action to combat the sources of such abuse which are outside Persian borders.


For the first time in Persia (Iran), I wrote about the National Geographic’s new World Atlas and the larger European-Arab conspiracy to change the name of Persian Gulf by having a bogus name included in world’s most influential publications, in an article that appeared in the Persian-language daily Shargh last year around this time. Within a short few days, hundreds of letters and articles from journalists, cultural/political activists, and ordinary people began appearing in Tehran’s main dailies with different political affiliations pressuring the Iran’s government to do something. That reaction finally came in form of denying entry to National Geographic staff until they corrected their mistake in the 2005 World Atlas edition. Government’s action in this case was a direct result of a massive protest by ordinary Persians (Iranians) coming to realization that they longer can take their history for granted. What follows here is a report on the latest events worldwide in relation to this conspiracy that continues to endure.


Ancient Persia section of the Louvre Museum in Paris has hosted many Persian enthusiasts from all parts of the world. Yet despite all its educational and non-political façade, one is hard pressed to find the correct name of Persian Gulf in French (Golfe Persique) on any of its maps. Amir Naghshineh-Pour, a member of Persian Gulf Online Organization (www.PersianGulfOnline.com) from San Diego, recently visited the Persian section of Louvre Museum and writes: “A few months ago with help from Ashkan Gorji, an Persian student studying in France, we drafted and forwarded a letter in both English and French to Louvre museum which was dismissed outright by the director of Persian history section. So I was surprised to see that a few of the maps were now displaying the Golfe Persique label on a more recent trip to the museum. I also noted that on the maps which during my previous visit had the strange dual name Golfe Arab-Persique, an obvious attempt had been made to erase the word “Arab” from the label. My first thought was that this may the work of some Persian visitors, but after observing the same exact work on several other maps and considering the heavy security presence inside the museum, it was obvious that although the letter had not produced the desirable official response, it had gained enough attention to produce some positive results despite their continued use of the obscure word Golfe (Gulf) on some of the maps; as if there were no other gulfs on this planet!”

A Map from US Navy with incorrect name for Persian Gulf


Almost all of the media outlets in the United States have used the proper historical name of Persian Gulf in all their stories in the past. But this may be about to change as well. In August 2005, a small group of Persians in the U.S. and Persia strongly objected to the use of the fake name “Arabian Gulf” by the Cable News network (CNN). It turned out that the story had originated from the Navy which has adopted this new policy for all stories and reports originating from the host Arab countries on the southern shores of the Persian Gulf. Public relation officials in the U.S. military have responded to objections by Persians (Iranians) with such absurd explanations as “This waterway is also known as the Arabian Gulf in this region” or “Although Persian Gulf is the historical name used by the mainstream U.S. media, the military’s policy is to refer to this waterway as the Arabian Gulf”. Bryan Behrang Lahiji, a Persian-American student in Southern California, who has been openly at odds with this new policy states: “I contacted public relations of the Fifth Naval Reserve Fleet of the U.S. Navy via email. I also wrote a letter to the U.S. Joint Military Command Headquarters which was responded to by a low ranking officer stating that instructions to use the wrong name for the Persian Gulf originates from the higher up. I then began a letter campaign to officials at U.S. embassy in Bahrain and several Senators in California. I soon came to the realization that without a large Persian-American presence in my part of the state, I’m hard pressed to get any help from the politicians. Other compatriots across the U.S., with the exception of a few who have followed this matter closely, do not treat this with the urgency it deserves or outright don’t care. It is very unfortunate”.


But on October 15, 2005 there was an interesting development – On that day there was a press release issued by one of U.S. Naval carriers in the Persian Gulf which within hours appeared on many of the American web news outlets. Without much hope for a positive response, I sent an email to the Army News website requesting that they correct the blatant geographical mistake in their press release. Within minutes I received this response from a Kent Miller in Virginia who identified himself as the chief editor of the military online news: “That story appeared in our Unit News section, which consists of military press releases about things service members are doing. As such, it receives minimal editing. Our reporters use Persian Gulf. Interestingly, our Defense News reporters – we also own that paper – only use Arabian Gulf, because – they say – some find the name Persian Gulf to be offensive and an Americanism. I can certainly change it on the story you mention, and will pass along your info to Defense News.”


A short time later, I revisited those same websites where the press release had been posted and noted that all had dropped the fake reference and used the proper name for the Persian Gulf. This proves that no matter how desperate and small an effort may seem, if presented in logical and courteous manner can indeed attain positive results.

Cina Dabestani, another active defender of Persian Gulf name, also received an interesting reply to his letter of protest from Ruden D. Calderon on another U.S. Naval carrier: “On behalf of my colleagues and myself, I apologize for the error that we have made. We have changed the error to read ‘Persian Gulf.’ Please understand that in no way did we mean to insult the Iranian heritage. I guarantee that this error will not happen again by myself or my colleagues.”
Dr. Pirouz Mojtahed-Zadeh, Professor of Geopolitics at the Tarbiat Modarres University of Tehran and Chairman of Urosevic Research Foundation in London, also believes that we should concentrate our efforts on drawing the attention of US Navy to the importance of correcting the present trend in naming the Persian Gulf. He states: “It is sad to see that a respectable establishment like US Navy would overlook proper protocols, strictly dhered to by both US government and non-governmental institutions hitherto for short term political considerations; that is alteration of historical names of geographical places for the sake of appeasing a rich sheik or two in that region. Unlike the British who, in this respect, quickly resorted to appeasement for commercial consideration, American institutes, both public and private, displayed respect for what is scientific principle and
adherence to moral codes of social and scientific behavior. They, despite their country’s friendly relation with Arab states in the past or at present, continuously proved that they will not give into the game of name change by others for political or racial hatred of each other. What US Navy is doing now in respect of using false name for the Persian Gulf is regretful and there appears to be two main reasons behind it; first, after the fall of Saddam, some of the Arab Sheikhs of the region found it necessary to continue his duty of anti-Persian campaign in the region to deepen hatred of Iran as a nation and a country, including changing the name of the Persian Gulf; second, the deteriorating US-Iran relations have allowed these Arabs to find a more receptive audience in some of the American military circles stationed on the Arab soils of these Sheikhdoms. Nonetheless, Persian Gulf continues to be the only official name recognized by the US government, and all US academic and cultural and scientific establishments. At present it is only some units of US Navy have adopted use of a false name for the Persian Gulf, probably as a result of pressure from local Arab political sources of southern Persian Gulf, and it is not clear who is giving and who is taking orders in that part of the world.”


Finally it is worth noting that recently Grolier, Inc., publisher of academic books and a subsidiary of Scholastic Corporation, removed all passages on the Persian Empire and the citations of the Persian Empire on the chronological timeline in their latest publication titled “The New Book of Knowledge” without any given reasons. This action has faced strong objection from the Persian-American community especially academics, artists, professors, scholars, historians, and students. As of this writing, an online petition objecting this move has collected well over 1500 signatures.



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