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The Priceless Heritage in a Name

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The Persian Gulf Organization (http://www.persiangulfonline.org) has received many complaints from its members in the past several weeks that the Western media again has started using an incorrect name instead of Persian Gulf. The USA and Western military officers, especially those stationed in the Middle East intentionally use "The Gulf," or "Arabian Gulf" in their presentations. On July 31, 2010, the CNN reporter of the "Inside the Middle East," program which was repeated every 30 minutes kept using the incorrect term. It seems that whenever Western countries want to antagonize Iran or Iranians, their military personnel and/or their media use the incorrect term.

The e-mails that the Persian Gulf Organization has received have come from over thirty cities in Iran. E-mails from outside of Iran have come from countries such as Canada, the USA, Japan, the UAE, Kuwait, and many more. As an organization, members plea for respect for the name Persian Gulf.

The misrepresentation of the name of the Persian Gulf has caused distress in the international communities, especially among Iranians. We wonder who is behind these actions. We created an Organization to document that the Persian Gulf name has been used for over 2500 years. "Persian Gulf" is not just a name; it is a part of world history. No one can change it by stating it incorrectly. To do so is also contrary both to the United Nations' recognition of the name and to respect for international values.

In 2004, the National Geographic Society (NGS) for the first time used both the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Gulf name. Organizations such as CNN and NGS obviously do not have the legal authority to change the name of a country, region, or a gulf. The United Nations with its 22 Arab member countries has on two occasions officially declared the name of the water between Iran and its Arab neighbors as the Persian Gulf. The first announcement was made pursuant to the document UNAD, 311/Gen on March 5, 1971, and the second was pursuant to UNLA 45.8.2 ( C ) on August 10, 1984.

In petitions that have been circulated the number of individuals who have written to express their dismay has surpassed several hundred thousand. Among those individuals, there are many university professors, history scholars, and others who have made clear why the correct name of this body water should be used.

When an organization and/or individual intentionally use a wrong name, its reputation comes into question. It seems that the current wave of anti-Iran sanctions has encouraged some organizations and individuals to compromise accuracy and respect for international law. These organizations and/or individuals must be held accountable for promoting wrong information.

There is a belief among the international community that these organizations or individuals have received financial incentives for using another name in addition to Persian Gulf. These organizations and individuals need to know that the Persian Gulf is not the preferable name, but the only name, and any other name is a complete misnomer and a betrayal of the heritage of those who have lived for centuries in the Persian Gulf.

Organizations such as CNN and NGS should investigate and publish the rules for changing names of geographic entities. If Americans decided to change the Gulf of Mexico to the AmericanGulf would this be possible? What about changing the Sea of Japan to the KoreanSea or the Arabian Sea to the PersianSea, and the Indian Ocean to the PakistanOcean?

The question should not be why CNN or NGS is mistaken but rather how gullible their audiences are. International conflicts and wars have sometimes started with small mistakes. Neither CNN, NGS, nor the USA military Generals have any rational basis for doing this, unless they plan to begin using multiple names for various parts of the world.

Historical facts cannot be changed. Attempts to do so result in injustice. People make history, but they cannot change history. With due respect to the Western media, "Persian Gulf" reflects Persian contributions to the whole world and the sacrifices Persians made to keep the gulf open so that other nations could benefit from it. When King Dariush of Persia after ten years of intense labor inaugurated the first Suez Canal in 498 B.C., the world became connected through maritime transportation. Documentation shows that many delegations came to Persia to celebrate the Persian New Year (Nowruz) every March 21st by sailing through the Persian Gulf. Persians never changed the name of the cities they ruled and did not impose their religion upon other nations. Persians have been attacked by many countries forcing them to accept foreign religions. Persians have supported free trade and promoted human rights for all religious groups.

There are lessons to be learned from CNN and NGS, because there have been other organizations such as the BBC and the Guardian which have taken advantage of problems in the region and have used the incorrect names instead of Persian Gulf. It is disappointing to observe that the political climate of the day in the USA overshadows so much discourse, with a direct impact on CNN and NGS's publications and reporting.

Using "A. Gulf" or "The Gulf" instead of "Persian Gulf" may appear humorous similar to the renaming of French fries to Freedom fries after France failed to support the American invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, CNN and NGS have lost much of their creditability and jeopardized the respect that international community had for them.

Persian Gulf has been the only label sanctioned for U.S. government use since the State Department's Board of Geographical Names settled the issue in 1917. We are perplexed as to what basis the American military and media are using the wrong name and whether there are any consequences of a financial nature to the change of internationally recognized name such as access to Arab markets or direct subsidies from Arab countries of Qatar and U.A.E.

We are hopeful that the management of CNN, NGS and other Western organizations will maintain their reputation and that they will publish and/or broadcast information which is unbiased, apolitical, and fair. Regardless of the reason(s) for the mistake, we firmly believe it is in the best interest of international community to use the correct term of Persian Gulf. Mass media must be committed to objectivity and honesty.

Iranians have lived for thousands of years in Iran. We have faced enemies and difficulties, yet we have kept our identity. Attacks from Greeks and Arabs among others, have hurt us, but we have always survived and have produced some of the best artists, poets, and scientists in the world. Iranians will continue to contribute positively wherever they may choose to live; however, they will not accept destruction of their country or their heritage.


Mohammad Ala is a community activist and an expert in Production and Operations management. He is founder and a Board member of four NGOs and a professor of Operations Management. Professor Ala has taught and/or consulted at universities throughout (more...)

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