Currently Browsing

discrimination

  • 18 December 2015
  • Posted By Michael Esfahani
  • 0 Comments
  • discrimination

How will Visa Waiver amendments affect Iranian Americans?

With the Visa Waiver Reform Bill (formerly, H.R. 158) expected to pass in Congress as part of the larger “Omnibus” appropriations act by this weekend, classes of American dual nationals, including Iranian Americans, will likely face new challenges visiting 38 countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program. As a result of the discriminatory quality of the provision, Iranian Americans will need to know how the new legislation will come to affect them.

Congressional aims to prevent members of anti-American militant groups from infiltrating the US has culminated in a rigid policy that seeks to regulate the flow of foreigners from those participating countries. Individuals who have traveled within the last five years to, or hold dual citizenship with, Iraq or Syria, as well as with those designated by the US as State Sponsors of Terrorism – Iran and Sudan –  will need to apply for a visa when coming to the US.

The language will not affect travel between the United States and Iran. American citizens or green card holders would not need a visa to re-enter the US after traveling to Iran.  It would also not affect Iranian citizens in possession of, or seeking, a US visa.

Challenges arise, however, when dual-national Iranian Americans want to travel to participating countries of the Visa Waiver Program. Where Iranian Americans will feel the impact of the provision is the likely reciprocation of the mandate by foreign governments participating in the Visa Waiver Program. The European Union, for example, already has in place laws that allow for the expedition of reciprocal restrictions in the event that they are imposed by a third party on European nationals. In short, if the provision is passed, dual-national Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian, and Sudanese Americans, along with anyone who has taken recent travel to these countries, will have to apply for a visa prior to traveling to Europe. Consequently, these communities would be exclusively stripped of their visa waiver privileges.

The piece of legislation is a clear example of institutional discrimination that will affect the Iranian American community. By passing the provision, Congress is indirectly, and knowingly, barring Iranian Americans from their fundamental privileges as US citizens.

  • 9 October 2013
  • Posted By Mina Jafari
  • Enter your password to view comments.
  • discrimination, Human Rights in Iran

Protected: Will Rouhani Act to End Persecution of Baha’is?

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

  • 8 August 2013
  • Posted By Caroline Cohn
  • 2 Comments
  • discrimination, Sanctions

Want to book a flight to Iran on Kayak? Sorry. But North Korea’s nice this time of year.

When Iranian Americans started reaching out to us a few weeks ago asking why websites like Kayak and Priceline were no longer allowing users to book flights to Iran, NIAC contacted the top executives of seven online travel agencies currently engaging in the practice to attempt to fix the problem. We told these companies – Orbitz, Priceline, Expedia, Tripadvisor, Cheaptickets, Hotwire, and Kayak – that, while sanctions are broad and confusing, they do not prohibit travel or the booking of travel to Iran. Since then, we’ve been contacted by Orbitz’s VP for Corporate Affairs who told us that the reason they block these sales is indeed sanctions. Or rather, the over-enforcement of sanctions that are so broad and ambiguous, private companies have been scared out of doing any business related to Iran even if it means booking flights for Iranian Americans to visit family.

Travel hurdles and restrictions aren’t a foreign concept in the U.S. You can’t simply book a flight to Cuba, either. In fact, all travel to Cuba by Americans traveling as individuals is expressly prohibited. Though, as of 2012, you can go to Cuba in a group – so long as you travel with an organization that has an official license from the U.S. State Department. In any case, given the stringent travel restrictions on Cuba, it makes sense that if you search for a flight to Havana on Tripadvisor, your attempt fails and the same error message – “we cannot complete your request…” – appears.

In the case of Iran, however, U.S. federal regulations explicitly do not restrict travel, and they certainly do not prohibit online travel agencies from facilitating Iran-related travel. And yet, as is the case with most other goods and services that are technically exempted from the sanctions, it appears that many companies are simply unaware of or unwilling to take advantage.

But what about North Korea, the country threatening war with the U.S. and our allies, and with a much more extensive nuclear war capability than Iran? Interestingly, we noticed yesterday that you actually can book flight tickets to Pyongyang, North Korea, through one of the websites, Kayak.com. Type in “Pyongyang” as your destination on Kayak, and you can find flights with no problem; although, some of the other online travel sites won’t process your request.

So why can’t you book flights to Iran? De jure technicalities aside, the de facto consequences of broad sanctions on Iran is clear. The Iran sanctions are the harshest sanctions regime ever imposed on a country during peacetime, according to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Many businesses, like many of these online travel agencies, have been convinced that zero association with Iran is a better business decision than the potential costs associated with any sort of business association. This has actually been the unofficial U.S. policy with regard to Iran sanctions for some time, to convince private actors that any business involving Iran, even if it’s perfectly legal, is simply not worth the risk. And this has also been the mission of organizations like United Against Nuclear Iran who name and shame any company doing any business with Iran, even if its legitimate.

  • 13 July 2012
  • Posted By Milad Jokar
  • 4 Comments
  • discrimination, Events in Iran, Nuclear file, Sanctions

Why Iran’s Hardliners Love the iPhone and McDonalds Sanctions

Iran's Mash Donalds (Mash refers to Mashhadi or Mashtee--someone who has made the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mashhad)

If you’re an Iranian who wants to get the latest iPhone, iPad or Macbook, it may just be easier for you to purchase one in Iran than in the U.S.

Apple Store in Sa’dat Abad, Tehran

New pressures to “tighten the noose” on Iran through sanctions have indeed led to discrimination against Persian-speakers at Apple Stores.  One has to wonder how banning Iranians from having access to iPods on which they can listen to Rihanna’s latest hit (yes, Rihanna’s latest hit is available in Iran) will “change Iran’s behavior” concerning its uranium enrichment program.

But despite the sanctions and the draconian ways they’re being enforced, in Iran, iPhones are everywhere.  And the way they get to Iran, far from “squeezing the regime” actually benefits smugglers linked to the state and the IRGC (Revolutionary Guard).

To purchase the latest Apple products, Iranians just have to go to their local “Apple Store” in Iran. They can choose their items online or in person, and can definitely speak Farsi when purchasing an iPad without worrying about whether the salesperson will take their money.

Indeed, everything is available in Iran for a price. Many Iranians still walk down Africa Street, known as Jordan Street  before the revolution, in their Air Jordans, gel in their hair, while perusing DVDs of the latest Hollywood movies starring Will Smith, Matt Demon or Angelina Jolie on display by street vendors.

The Colonel in Iran serves "Kabaaby" Fried Chicken

U.S. sanctions also prohibit U.S. fast food companies from opening in Iran. It is unclear what is the logic of banning McDonalds in Iran and how denying Iranians the pleasures of true American junk food will stop Iran’s nuclear program.  And yet, while it’s always nice to enjoy a good khoreshte bamie or ghorme sabzi, Iranians can still skip rice and go to a good KFC (kabaaby Fried Chicken), Mash Donald’s (Mash refers to one who has made the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mashhad) or simply grab a coffee at Raees—featuring a mustachioed version of Starbucks mermaid—on Seoul Street in Tehran.

Because of sanctions, most of these stores are knockoffs. However, all the soft drinks, clothes,
phones and other electronic devices are authentic. These goods come into Iran through Dubai, Iraq, and the shores of the Persian Gulf, and supply the Iranian Bazaari (merchants and shop keepers) who sell these items openly in their stores.

  • 28 June 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
  • 0 Comments
  • discrimination

Havaar Leads Flash Mob Over Apple’s Sanctions Discrimination

After Sahar Sabet’s account of discrimination at an Apple store made the overzealous implementation of sanctions a national topic and civil rights issue, Havaar, a group which speaks out against war, sanctions and state repression, organized a flash mob a the 5th avenue flagship Apple store in New York City.  The group of Iranian Americans and other pro-civil rights protesters went to the store chanting, “Apple stop profiling!” and “Technology is for all people!”  They came bearing posters with slogans as “Sanctions hurt the people not the regime.”  Members of the group made a point to speak in Persian — the same action that has led some Apple stores to refuse service to Iranian-American customers.  Click “read more” to watch a video of the flash mob:

  • 27 June 2012
  • Posted By Lily Samimi
  • 2 Comments
  • discrimination, Iranian American activism, Let's Talk Iran

The Root Cause of Apple’s Discrimination

In this episode, you will hear from Sahar Sabet, a young Iranian-American woman who was recently denied the ability to purchase Apple products from an Apple store in Alpharetta, Georgia. This incident has garnered international media coverage and left the Iranian-American community in outrage. NIAC’s Policy Director, Jamal Abdi tells us how sanctions are at the root of racial profiling/discrimination faced by Sahar and many other Iranian Americans across the nation.

Play
  • 25 June 2012
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 1 Comments
  • discrimination

19-year old Georgia teen reiterates: Apple employee discriminated

Sahar Sabet, the 19-year old Iranian American teenager at the center of the Apples discrimination controversy, issued a statement through her attorney today to “correct erroneous media and organizational reports” that were claiming Apple did not discriminate against her because they were just following the law.

The evidence suggests that, yes, she was in fact discriminated against and that, yes, broad sanctions encouraged sanctions vigilantism and profiling by retail employees:

“On the date in question, Sabet’s family had relatives visiting from Houston, Texas.  Ms. Sabet decided to take her uncle, aunt, and grandmother with her to the mall that afternoon.  Sabet received assistance from two different Apple employees while finalizing her decision on which specific iPad model to select. Ultimately, she selected an iPad and was preparing to make her purchase.  It was at this time that Sabet’s uncle, a native Farsi speaker, had a question regarding an iPhone that he was considering purchasing for his daughter in Tehran, Iran.  Sabet, a United States citizen and native English speaker, served as a translator.  After asking her uncle’s question to one of the Apple employees that had been assisting her, she translated the answer into Farsi for her uncle’s benefit.

“Then, as Sabet attempted to complete her purchase, another Apple employee, previously unknown to Sabet, approached her and rudely demanded to know what language Sabet and her uncle were speaking.  When Sabet replied that they were speaking Farsi, the Apple employee, with no other basis, denied Sabet the sale and stated that “our countries do not have good relations with each other.”  Sabet’s attempts to escalate the situation to the store’s management were fruitless as the manager on duty simply sided with the employee’s decision to refuse Sabet the sale on account of her ethnicity and national origin.”

The full statement via Sahar’s attorney is below.

  • 25 June 2012
  • Posted By Roshan Alemi
  • 0 Comments
  • discrimination, Sanctions

Apple’s ‘Iran Policy’ Shows Why We Can’t Shy Away from Politics

NIAC’s Jamal Abdi and Nobar Elmi published a piece in Tehran Bureau last Friday in which they argue that recent allegations of discrimination by Apple employees against Iranian Americans are rooted in flawed US-Iran sanctions policy. They write, “we need to realize that what is happening is not just a series of individual cases of alarming behavior,” but are instead “just the latest example of sanction laws being so broad that they are misinterpreted or overenforced and mistakenly applied.”

What is happening at Apples stores, Elmi and Abdi say, is not just the result of private companies “being overly cautious or not educating their employees about their sanctions policies,” but also a result of the U.S. government “continuing to broaden the sanctions and not issuing clear exemptions and guidelines for what is allowed.”  They do point out the Obama Administration’s efforts to exempt certain communication software to promote Internet freedom in Iran, but say private companies like Google and Yahoo are, regardless, still blocking basic Internet communication tools in Iran.

Their conclusion is that the Apple episode demonstrates the many ways US-Iran relations affect our community, both inside and out of Iran, and cite this as why Iranian Americans must not to shy away from politics:

“None of us should be surprised that this is happening. Unintended consequences are the reality of broad sanctions. It’s been the policy of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) for many years to oppose broad, indiscriminate sanctions because they don’t punish the right targets (e.g., human rights abusers, the Iranian government) and instead hit ordinary people. The first time NIAC dealt with discrimination due to sanctions policy was ten years ago, when Monster.com prohibited job seekers from listing any work experience in Iran and other sanctioned countries, and removed such references from their resumes. We challenged Monster’s overenforcement and succeeded in correcting the company’s policy.

“We need to call on the U.S. government to take the necessary steps to ensure sanctions do not continue to be misapplied or overenforced to the detriment of Iranian Americans and Iranians. We also need to continue to call out private companies that are overenforcing and misapplying sanctions. And we need to challenge companies like Apple, whose employees’ actions are demeaning and discriminatory.”

To read the full article, click here.

  • 1 September 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 7 Comments
  • discrimination

US Navy Sets an Example

With some in Congress openly advocating for the punishment of innocent Iranians and the drumbeat of war growing louder, it was especially refreshing to see the American sense of humanity still alive in a recent rescue operation by the US Navy.

On August 20, the US Navy rescued eight Iranian fishermen from a burning boat in the Arabian Sea.  The Iranians, who had abandoned their boat and were floating on a life raft in the middle of the sea, were picked up by two SH-60 helicopters from the Antisubmarine Squadron of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group. They were then attended to by doctors and given food, water, fresh clothing, and temporary sleeping quarters until the Iranian authorities picked them up.

The New York Times article which reported on the US Navy rescue didn’t fail to note that “The United States and Iran have not had formal diplomatic relations since 1980.” As if diplomatic relations mattered to the fishermen who were floating on a life raft in the middle of the sea.

Fortunately our lack of diplomatic relations with Iran did not prevent the Navy from rescuing the stranded fishermen.  But for one reason or another, many Americans often do forget about the Iranian people or associate them with a government they do not have control over.

This can be seen almost everywhere.  In response to news of the Iranian Kish Airliner air crash in the UAE in February 2004, MSNBC Don Imus remarked, “When I hear stories like that, I think who cares.” In November 2009, Fox sportscasters made racially discriminatory remarks against Iranian NBA player Hamed Haddadi. Reuel Marc Gerecht, Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, claimed that Iranians “have terrorism in their DNA.” Even YouTube, usually a nonpolitical world community, got involved in politics and excluded Iranians from its recent experimental documentary Life in a Day.

This attitude is extremely disconcerting. Just as I would not want to be judged by US foreign policy, such as our handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, neither should Americans, and in particular policymakers, be so quick to associate the Iranian people with their government’s foreign policies. It is as if the 2009 post-election protests and crackdown, and the continuing government repression in Iran have already been forgotten.

As Sandy Tolan wrote, “If national interest comes before our common humanity, then there is no hope for redemption, there is no hope for healing, there is no hope for transformation, there is no hope for anything.” I hope Americans who have forgotten about this common humanity take cue from the US Navy rescue, and keep Tolan’s words in mind.

  • 18 June 2010
  • Posted By Sherry Safavi
  • 2 Comments
  • discrimination, Human Rights in Iran, Iranian Youth, UN

Iran Rejects UN Accountability for Baha’i Treatment

The Baha’i International Community expressed its deep disappointment with Iran’s refusal to adopt recommendations made by the UN during Iran’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR).  Iran’s Secretary General of the High Council for Human Rights, Mohammad Javad Larijani, brazenly rejected a number of the council’s key human rights concerns and accused the Baha’i International Community of acting on behalf of Western powers.

“We are deeply disturbed by the Iranian government’s refusal to accept basic recommendations concerned with ending injustice, persecution and discrimination in that country,” a representative of the Baha’i International Community said at the meeting.

The UPR recommendations aimed to end discrimination against Baha’is and the Iranian government’s repression of the community, among many other recommendations about human rights in Iran.  Specifically, the council called on Iran’s government to do away with policies restricting Baha’i access to universities and official lists barring Baha’is from pursuing twenty five different professions.

Despite the statements of 26 states urging Iran to account for their human rights violations against the Baha’i community, Larijani flatly denied many of the allegations. “Baha’is enjoy full civil and citizenship right[s] in Iran… The government is supporting all of their economic activity.  They go to school, they go to universities …I can name for you more than 200 students at universities,” he told the council last Thursday.

The findings of the Human Rights Watch would suggest otherwise.

One Human Rights Watch report detailed how the Iranian government had denied some 800 students access to their school transcripts. The students had logged onto their student accounts only to be informed that their transcript was “incomplete.” Students complained that school officials had ignored their efforts to address the issue.

The Baha’i religion is not recognized by government authorities and Baha’i’s face severe consequences for the practice of their faith, which the government has characterized as participation in cult-like activity.  The roots of this discrimination can be traced back to the Iranian government’s interpretation of the Baha’i faith as a divergence from Islam and its practitioners as a heretic sect.

“One thing we are against and we are not going to hide it, we are against any cult type, sect type activity. Even if it is a Shiah sect we will ban them… This is the main accusation of [the Baha’i] people who are right now under pursuance of law,” Larijani contended.

Moreover, Larijani rebuked the Baha’i International Community, accusing them of parroting the United States.  Such allegations are not new. Just like the government’s efforts to undermine the Green Movement by painting it as a stooge of the “foreign agents,” their accusations against the BIC ring just as hollow.

Government officials have suggested the Green Movement is a Western ploy. They have accused various Western countries of staging the death of Neda Agha-Soltan. Her tragic death, caught on video, during the 2009 presidential election protests has became a visible symbol of the Iranian government’s repression, but sadly, there are dozens or hundreds of similar situations throughout Iran that could resonate just as strongly.  The abysmal treatment of the Baha’is is one of them.