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Posts Tagged ‘ Iranian-American ’

  • 13 June 2011
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • Congress, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Sanctions

As Sanctions Ratchet Up, Iranian Americans Bear Increasing Burdens

With a new push for even more “crippling” Iran sanctions coming out of Congress, and renewed signs from the president that further sanctions may be in the offing, it is more important than ever for Americans, particularly Americans of Iranian descent, to evaluate the unintended impact these sanctions are having here in the U.S.

Yesterday, the civil rights organization Asian Law Caucus released its latest guide, The Impact of U.S. Sanctions Against Iran on You, which lays out some of the effects of sanctions on ordinary Iranian Americans and provides guidance for how to navigate the maze of new and existing restrictions.

Last year, when Iranian-American Mahmoud Reza Banki was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for facilitating remittances between families in the U.S. and Iran, shockwaves rippled through the Iranian-American community.

That’s because even under ramped up sanctions, Iranian Americans are still legally permitted to send family remittances to loved ones in Iran. However, because banking sanctions have closed off most of the legal channels for such transactions, many turn to workarounds that may seem innocuous, but are often illegal.

The ALC effort is important in ensuring that Iranian Americans understand their rights and don’t end up unintentionally violating the law. But even with this understanding, many Iranian Americans have been unable to avoid the chilling effect caused by the increasing breadth of sanctions.

Banks have frozen the accounts of Iranian Americans who simply checked their bank balance online from Iran. In at least one case, a bank closed an account when it determined its customer was a “resident” of Iran because she had been thrown in jail on frivolous espionage charges.

Website owners have found that certain web hosts refuse to allow Iranian IP addresses to access their sites. Iranian Americans who formerly worked and retired in Iran report that they are now unable to receive their pensions here in the U.S. due to banking restrictions. Charity and relief organizations have been shocked when, despite going through the long and arduous process of obtaining a U.S. license to work on humanitarian projects in Iran, they are suddenly and wrongly dropped by their financial institution. And researchers have been unable to conduct studies or obtain grants related to Iran because of concerns about sanctions.

None of these activities are illegal, but the broad, untargeted nature of Iran sanctions have convinced companies and banks that facilitating such activities is simply not worth the risk.

Even with these difficulties, many, if not most, Iranian Americans would be happy to make these sacrifices if doing so held the promise of helping improve the situation in Iran. But the results we have seen from broad sanctions have consistently been the opposite. Economic sanctions regarding Iran’s nuclear program have not stopped or even stemmed the human rights abuses in Iran. They have failed to change the Iranian government’s behavior for over three decades and have hurt, not helped, the Iranian people.

For instance, restrictions on aircraft parts and repairs have helped leave Iran’s civilian aircraft fleet in disrepair, resulting in at least fifteen Iranian plane crashes in the past decade.

We also now know that, in June 2009, as Iranians took to the streets to demand accountability from their government in the face of brutal repression, U.S. sanctions were preventing Iranians from accessing even the most basic communication software and hardware.

Fast forward two years and many of these sanctions remain in place, new ones have been ratcheted up, and even more may be on the way. Meanwhile, Tehran continues to put thirty years of experience in leveraging the sanctions to use by enriching government officials and further consolidating their share of Iran’s economy by controlling the sale of sanctioned products.

Hopefully, efforts like those of the ALC to educate the Iranian-American community can help ensure that innocent people do not unknowingly get swept into the wake of the broad sanctions or have their rights violated.

But going forward, we will need to continue to press policymakers to pay more attention to the unintended consequences of these sanctions.

With Congress considering oil embargo measures that will make Iran policy look even more like the policies carried out on Iraq — which failed to depose Saddam, resulted in humanitarian disaster, and ultimately ended in war — elected officials must hear this message.

It is critical that Americans, and especially Iranian Americans, take action to oppose sanctions that invite dangerous outcomes for the U.S. and the Iranian people, and fail to discriminate between Iran’s government, the Iranian people, and Iranian Americans.

Amanpour: Attacked for Being Iranian

As with anything in politics, there should be room for a lively debate about Christiane Amanpour’s recent appointment to host ABC’s This Week. Legitimate arguments can be made both for and against the decision to hire an acclaimed foreign correspondent to do a Sunday morning show that previously focused on domestic issues.  And employees at ABC are well within their right to be miffed at the network’s decision to pay top dollar for a star like Amanpour at the same time they are scaling back and laying off long-time employees.

But what cannot be countenanced is accusing her of bias based only on insinuations about her Iranian heritage.  The attacks on Amanpour follow in a long line of Iranophobic attempts to keep qualified Iranian Americans out of the public sphere in America, and it should be called out for what it is: anti-Iranian bigotry.

JARAS: Tajbakhsh to be Released from Prison

According to the Jaras website, the most prominent Iranian opposition website, Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh, top researcher and sociology professor from Columbia University will be released from prison for Norooz, most likely by the end of today.

Citing an unnamed source, Jaras is reporting that Dr. Tajbakhsh will be released by tonight or tomorrow. It appears that the Iranian government is releasing a large number of its political prisoners for Norooz, though the judiciary has set outrageous bail amounts for each detainee. It is reported that Dr. Tajbakhsh’s bail is set at $500,000 US.

Dr. Tajbakhsh, an Iranian American who holds dual citizenship, was arrested in the aftermath of June 2009 disputed election, and has been sentenced to five years in prison for his alleged political activities against the establishment. Following the great international outcry by a variety of human rights organizations, Tajbakhsh’s original sentencing of fifteen years was reconsidered by an appellate court and was later reduced to five years instead.

NIAC has repeatedly called for Tajbakhsh release, as well as for the release of all political prisoners in Iran.

NIAC 2010 Conference Video: Iran at a Crossroads

In case you missed our livestream video, here is the full conference video, available for viewing.  We apologize for the beginning part being cut off, we experienced some technical difficulties at the start (but it gets better!)

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more about “NIAC 2010 Conference Video: Iran at a…“, posted with vodpod

  • 4 October 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • Diplomacy, Human Rights in Iran

NIAC Welcomes US-Iran Talks and the Inclusion of Human Rights

The National Iranian American Council welcomes the successful first meeting between representatives of the permanent five members of the Security Council plus Germany and Iran yesterday.

Members of the Iranian-American community are particularly pleased that the issue of human rights in Iran was also raised during the talks.

  • 17 August 2009
  • Posted By Matthew Negreanu
  • Iran Election 2009

Ahmadinejad’s delegation fears protests at UN

The pro-reformist website Emruz has obtained a letter from the Iranian Interest Section in Washington, D.C. inviting select Iranian-Americans to meet with Mahmoud Ahamdinejad in New York during the UN General Assembly meeting in September.  The recipients of the letter are instructed to only invite “trusted” Iranian-Americans, out of concern that participants will make a scene and embarrass Ahmadinejad.

Large numbers of Iranian Americans are expected to protest against Ahmadinejad when he goes to the UN.

Iranican asks you to support Obama’s remarks on Iran


Last week, Obama became the first president to recognize the U.S. role in the 1953 coup against the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadeq.  In response to the President’s historic speech, the Iranian-American community has shown its support for this gesture.  Iranican, a non-profit organization based in Silicon Valley which produces media reports to reach the younger Iranian community abroad, has asked Iranian Americans to take action and show their support for the President’s remarks by  contacting the White House and the State Department to leave their comments.

As Iranican deftly points out,

“Most of the time we don’t say thank you when we should. While we may not necessarily agree with each statement the president makes, thanking on good things increases our capacity [as Iranian Americans]  to criticize when bad things are happening.”

Check it out over at Iranican today!

  • 20 November 2008
  • Posted By Michelle Moghtader
  • Iranian American activism, Uncategorized

Iranian American addresses House Committee

A recent and prominent example of Iranian-American participation in American civic life took place on Thursday, November 13th when Houman Shadab testified on Thursday, November 13th before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing entitled, “Hedge Funds and the Financial Market.” Houman is a senior research fellow in the Regulatory Studies Program of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

At the hearing, Houman addressed the committee on issues pertaining to hedge funds and the financial crisis. This was the fifth such hearing since the financial crisis began and while the prior four have dealt with the reasons leading up to the crisis, the fifth addressed future risks to our economic stability.

Minority groups represent at the Dem Convention

There are about 200 outside events going on in the four days of the Denver National Democratic Convention. (On Monday alone, there were no less than 84).

New congressional lobbying rules require that these events- which are organized by corporations, unions, political caucuses and other interest groups- don’t honor just one individual candidate or elected official in particular, but rather a larger group or theme. Finger food abounds, as the rules also prevent organizations from giving full meals to Congress or their staff for free.

NJ Voter Registration Fiasco

Zary Mojtabai and her sister were both denied their vote in their preferred New Jersey Primary earlier this year. When they showed up at the polling station they were informed that they were tagged as Republicans, even though they had not officially affiliated themselves with either political party. Consequently, they were ineligible to vote in the Democratic Primary. The inability to exercise their right was further soured by the fact that their votes as Democrats were significant in their mostly Republican district; Mojtabai commented that “We were really looking forward to participate in this first major New Jersey primary election and it has been very frustrating to encounter such an ambiguous obstacle.”

Sign the Petition


7,350 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.



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