Currently Browsing

Posts Tagged ‘ Sanctions ’

  • 21 February 2013
  • Posted By Sina Toossi
  • 1 Comments
  • Sanctions

Are Google “doodles” sanctioned?

Google recently created a special “doodle” to mark the 812th birthday of the polymath Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, and attributes him to every country in the Middle East except the one where he actually comes from–Iran.

Doodles are commemorative changes in the Google homepage logo that are meant to celebrate an event or individual. In honoring al-Tusi, Google did the commendable thing of raising awareness about an individual and time many are unfamiliar with. However, Google committed one rather large disservice to the spread of accurate historical information with this doodle by attributing almost every country in the Middle East and North Africa (including Afghanistan) to him except the one he was actually from. Indeed, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi was a native of Khorasan (a region in north east modern day Iran), spoke and wrote in Persian as well as Arabic, and grew up in the Iranian cities of Tus, Hamedan, and Neishapur.

Now the reasons for why there was no attribution to Iran at all for this doodle are unclear. Many Google doodles, including this one for al-Tusi, are country specific. That is, they only show up on the Google homepages in countries that are listed under location on the page for the doodle. Iran does not even have a location page on the Google doodle website, which suggests it is simply excluded from Google doodle. Even doodles such as last year’s one for the Persian New Year exclude Iran. This begs the question of whether or not excluding Iran from these doodles is a result of Google having to blacklist Iran because of sanctions.

Google remains one of the few sites in Iran not blocked by the Iranian government, and many Iranians rely on it for email and search, and even make extensive use of the Persian language version of Google. Yet, Google does have a history of blocking certain services for Iran, citing sanctions. When Google Plus was introduced, Google first banned the service for Iranian IP addresses (calling Iran a “forbidden country”) before Iranian government filters got anywhere close to it. Google’s popular Google Play app store for Android mobile platforms has also long been blocked for Iranian customers. Google Earth, the Chrome Browser, and the photo service Picasa were also blocked for Iran until events (mostly the Green movement protests) and pressure led the U.S. government to issue a license that allowed these programs to be made available in Iran. Several organizations, including NIAC, have called in the past on Google and other tech companies to stop blocking Iranian people from accessing Internet communication tools.

  • 24 October 2012
  • Posted By Brett Cox
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Sanctions

Obama & Romney Agree on Sanctions As Medicine Grows Scarce in Iran

When it came to sanctions, the third presidential debate resembled an argument over which candidate could punish Iranians more with the “most crippling sanctions ever.”

Meanwhile, the number of unavailable medicines in Iran jumped from 30 to 90 in the last five months according to tejaratnews.com. There has been a gradual slide towards crisis for Iran’s sick, as sanctions cut off more than just Iran’s oil exports. Indeed, this report just confirms multiple other reports that the sanctions are depriving the sick and dying of much needed medicine.

At NIAC’s leadership conference earlier this month, Erich Ferrari, a Washington-based sanctions expert, explained how medical exports to Iran are being blocked, even though these items are technically exempt from sanctions. The U.S. government has sanctioned Iran’s entire banking system, and imposed massive penalties on foreign banks for dealing with Iranian financial institutions.  As a result, foreign banks are ceasing all trade with Iran, including food and medicine.

Tejarat reports that a growing number of sick are turning to alternative, and more dangerous, means of treatment such as faulty generics from India and China, untested indigenous prototypes, and herbalists.

Ferarri described two such instances with harmful, even deadly, consequences. In one case, an Iranian importer turned to China for pain medication and ended up empty handed. “They spent about five million dollars and, when it got to Iran, they tested it, and about 85% of it was just pure chalk, with no medicinal value.” He spoke of one of his clients whose aunt in an Iranian hospital was unable to obtain basic IV fluids. “The hospitals in Iran substituted what’s in the IV with just water. And because of that, her condition continued to worsen and worsen. She died, in the hospital, because they couldn’t get the products they needed.”

The Tejarat article recalled the days before punitive sanctions were put in place, when 94% of the substances needed to domestically produce most medicines were imported from mostly Western Europe and North America. However, a 30 to 40% price increase of medicines in just the last few months has served only to impoverish regular Iranians while empowering the government.

In the grander scheme of things, all are being affected by the sanctions, from management and officials, pharmaceutical manufacturers, distribution companies, hospitals and even pharmacies.

Such circumstances have forced Aban 13 Pharmacy, Iran’s most important for filling special medications, to implement a quota system. And, as is the norm in a time of shortage, many patients and their families have resorted to hoarding and buying in bulk, even smuggling needed medications across the border as if they were contraband.

Some Iranians simply cannot cope with the hardship imposed by the sanctions and Iran’s struggling economy. Golnaz Esfandiari, reporting to Radio Free Europe, cited one cancer patient’s struggle, “Before, some foreign made drugs were available for 2,000,000 rials. But currently the price of an injection needed for cancer patients after chemotherapy is 50,000,000 rials.” Her source continued, “As a patient, I’d rather die than impose such cost on my family.”

  • 9 October 2012
  • Posted By Dylan Zehr
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, Sanctions, UN

UN Report: Sanctions worsen human rights problems in Iran

In a recently released report to the UN General Assembly, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon updated the body on the dismal human rights situation in Iran.  The report paints a bleak picture of the Iranian government’s attitude and actions towards its own people, concentrating on the extensive human rights violations of the Islamic Republic, but also finds that sanctions are creating additional human rights concerns for ordinary Iranians.

The critical sections of the document report “torture, amputations, flogging, the increasingly frequent application of the death penalty (including in public and for political prisoners), arbitrary detention and unfair trials” within Iran. Other violations noted include infringements against the rights of women, against  opposition political figures and the general electorate.  The report notes that “authorities have taken certain positive steps such as the decision to omit stoning as a method of execution,” but that judges do still retain the discretion to order such a sentence.  Another section  observes that, “the revised Islamic Penal Code, which is yet to be approved…establishes new measures to limit the juvenile death penalty,” but cautions that the new code fails to end juvenile executions.

In the midst of all of the findings of Iranian government sponsored repression, the Secretary General also examines the impact of western sanctions, under the title “Economic, social, and cultural rights”:

“The sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran have had significant effects on the general population, including an escalation in inflation, a rise in commodities and energy costs, an increase in the rate of unemployment and a shortage of necessary items, including medicine.”

The report notes rising concerns about the sanctions among civil society groups:

“A number of Iranian non-governmental organizations and activists have expressed concerns about the growing impact of sanctions on the population and have noted that inflation, rising prices of commodities, subsidy cuts and sanctions are compounding each other and having far-reaching effects on the general population. They report, for instance, that people do not have access to lifesaving medicines.”

Sanctions also worsen current humanitarian problems by hindering relief efforts and basic medical care in the country, according to the report:

“Even companies that have obtained the requisite licence to import food and medicine are facing difficulties in finding third-country banks to process the transactions. Owing to payment problems, several medical companies have stopped exporting medicines to the Islamic Republic of Iran, leading to a reported shortage of drugs used in the treatment of various illnesses, including cancer, heart and respiratory conditions, thalassemia and multiple sclerosis.”

It is becoming increasingly clear that ordinary people in Iran are being squeezed by human rights violations–between the repression of their own government on one side, and the indiscriminate pressure of U.S.-led sanctions on the other.  These sanctions are not helping to alleviate the suffering among ordinary Iranians, they are actively making the situation even worse.

  • 9 October 2012
  • Posted By Dylan Zehr
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, Sanctions

Food shipments halted as Maersk bows to U.S. Iran sanctions

Iran’s civilian population is already reeling from sanctions that, according to the United Nations, are cutting access to medicine and humanitarian goods.  But today, Maersk Line, the world’s largest shipping container company, announced it will end port service in Iran.

In Maersk’s statement, they declared that their cargoes had been limited to goods for the welfare of the general population:

“To date, Maersk Line’s business in Iran has involved transporting foodstuffs and other goods, for example vehicles, for the benefit of the general civilian population. It is with regret that it is ceasing these activities.”

Maersk’s spokeswoman cited concerns about the possibility of penalties from the U.S. government, despite the fact that food is supposedly exempt from current U.S. sanctions:

“This is a pragmatic decision based on an assessment of balancing the benefits of doing limited business in Iran against the risk of damaging business opportunities elsewhere particularly the U.S.”

Maersk’s shutdown can only make basic foodstuffs more scarce for Iran’s civilian population, a trend we are likely to see continue as sanctions escalate.  As the UN reported in August:

“Even companies that have obtained the requisite license to import food and medicine are facing difficulties in finding third-country banks to process the transactions.”

Because of the litany of broad economic sanctions in place, there are increasingly limited channels for legal humanitarian transactions regarding Iran, and fewer and fewer banks and companies willing to take the risk of violating the myriad sanctions.  Last week, a dozen U.S. lawmakers called on the President to take steps to ensure banking sanctions differentiate between blocked transactions and legally allowed transactions, such as food and medicine.

Iran is turning to unorthodox methods of securing food for its population. Traditionally a wheat exporter that allowed the private sector to manage food imports, Iran’s government has recently made large wheat purchases from Australia, Russia and the EU, as well pushing for a barter deal with Pakistan (Iran would send Pakistan pig iron and fertilizer in exchange for wheat).

  • 19 September 2012
  • Posted By Dylan Zehr
  • 0 Comments
  • Iranian Youth, Sanctions

Sanctions contribute to rising unemployment in Iran

The negative effects of sanctions on average Iranians are growing clearer and clearer. The latest piece on the issue, from Reuters, highlights the fact that the unemployment rate is still rising throughout the Iranian economy.

At the beginning of the year, the Iran Census Centre statistics pointed to an urban unemployment rate of 12.5%. Among the young, the official rate was much higher, at 29.1%. These numbers, like the reported inflation rate, are judged by most experts to be far below the true figures. Abbas Vatanpour, a former Iranian representative at the International Labor Organization, thinks youth unemployment could be as high as 50 per cent, while Mehrdad Emadi, an Iranian-born economic adviser to the European Union, believes the headline unemployment figure is above 20 percent.

According to The Telegraph, “rising joblessness is being fuelled by Iran’s exclusion last March from the Swift banking system, preventing businessmen from carrying out international transactions.” In some cases, this measure has led to factory closure due to an inability to obtain components. In others, the costs of components have soared, driving up the final price to a point that consumer demand drops. These mechanisms have reduced production in the automotive sector by 30% in the past six months, a figure reported by Iranian media.

In raw numbers, “Iran-based economists and members of parliament critical of the government, estimate that 500,000-800,000 Iranians have lost their jobs in the past year.” In September 2011, former Minister of Labor Abdolreza Sheikholeslami declared that university graduates were 10 times more likely to be unemployed than those with less education.  Indeed, while these losses are hitting all job sectors, they are disproportionately punishing the educated sector and undermining the Iranian middle class “that has been at the center of the democracy movement.”

  • 5 September 2012
  • Posted By Joseph Chmielewski
  • 0 Comments
  • Sanctions

Sanctions punish Iran’s most vulnerable

While the Iranian government refuses to waver on the issue of its nuclear development, U.S. sanctions continue to get broader and more unwieldy.

The sanctions are posing new obstacles to U.S. interests and causing pain inside of Iran.  For instance, there are new reports that even American journalists covering Iran–already dealing with Tehran’s press restrictions–now must also deal with obstacles imposed by the U.S. government in order to get special permission from Treasury to report inside of Iran.

The real pain, however, is being felt by Iran’s most vulnerable citizens.  Iranians with serious medical illnesses are especially affected by the increasing sanctions, according to a new Financial Times report:

The tightening of U.S. banking sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program has had an impact on all sectors of the economy but is increasingly hitting vulnerable medical patients as deliveries of medicine and raw materials for Iranian pharmaceutical companies are either stopped or delayed, according to medical experts.

The effect, the experts say, is being felt by cancer patients and those being treated for complex disorders such as hemophilia, multiple sclerosis and thalassemia, as well as transplant and kidney dialysis patients, none of whom can afford interruptions or delays in medical supplies.

These widely accepted sanctions were drafted to explicitly exempt medicine from the restrictions.  But the exemptions are not holding up as sanctions escalate.  To export medicine to Iran, American companies must first acquire a license from the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).  And those licenses only get them so far, according to FT:

Even those with a license report problems. Importers say that despite resorting to various more expensive financial channels, such as changing from one European bank to another or using middlemen and unofficial transactions, medicine does not arrive on time or in sufficient quantities.

‘We hold a license from the OFAC, but our imports have dropped by more than half while we pay much more than before,’ one importer said.‘The exemption of medicine from sanctions is only in theory,’ said another. ‘International banks do not accept Iran’s money for fear of facing U.S. punishment.’

  • 22 August 2012
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 4 Comments
  • Iranian American activism, Sanctions

Thank Obama for Suspending Sanctions on Humanitarian Aid

Dear President Obama,

Thank you for taking action to enable the American people to help the Iranian people in their time of need following the earthquakes that struck northern Iran.   We greatly appreciate your issuance of a general license to help ensure sanctions don’t obstruct humanitarian relief in the aftermath of this tragedy.  Your efforts demonstrate that disputes between governments should never interfere with humanitarian needs and goodwill among people.

Thank you,

>> Sign your name here

Child Foundation * Children of Persia * Hand Foundation * Iranian Alliances Across Borders * Iranian American Bar Association * Iranian American Muslim Association of North America * Moms Against Poverty * National Iranian American Council * Persian American Society for Health Management * Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans * United For Iran * West Asia Council

[emailpetition id=”3″]

  • 30 July 2012
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, Legislative Agenda, Sanctions, UN

Congressional push for sanctions on food and medicine

It’s that time of year again–when Republicans and Democrats in Congress takes a break from wringing each other’s necks to pass a piece of legislation to “tighten the noose” around Iran just in time for campaign season.

For those just checking in, here’s an example of what our current sanctions are already doing on the ground in Iran (via Tehran Bureau):

The board of directors of the Iranian Hemophilia Society has informed the World Federation of Hemophilia that the lives of tens of thousands of children are being endangered by the lack of proper drugs, a consequence of international economic sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic.

The Iranian Hemophilia Society notes that U.S., EU, and UN sanctions technically do not ban medical goods.  In fact, there is a so-called “humanitarian exemption” in U.S. sanctions that is supposed to exempt humanitarian goods like medicine, medical goods, and food.

And yet medicine is not getting in to Iran as “sanctions imposed on the Central Bank of Iran and the country’s other financial institutions have severely disrupted the purchase and transfer of medical goods.”

It turns out that imposing the broadest, most indiscriminate, crippling-est, noose tightening sanctions ever (did I miss anything in there?) means that a few piecemeal exemptions for food or medicine, or even  Internet communication tools, don’t really stand up.

  • 27 July 2012
  • Posted By Roshan Alemi
  • 0 Comments
  • Sanctions

How Sanctions Actually Help the Regime

Although Iran has been under some form of sanctions since 1979, today it faces indiscriminate sanctions so severe that ordinary Iranian citizens are being hurt the most. Reports have already indicated that sanctions are adversely affecting public health, personal finance, public education, and progressive social movements in Iran. Still, Western lawmakers claim that this is the unfortunate price that must be paid in order for regime change in Iran to be possible. Their argument is simple and unproven: economic pressure will trigger popular unrest that eventually overthrows the regime. However, the demonstrated reality is quite different: sanctions are lending power to the regime, and in turn crippling the people who are crying for change.

In the past, the government’s of sanctioned countries have been able to manipulate the effects of sanctions to reward supporters and disproportionally weaken opposition. Political scientist Dan Drezner explains: “In authoritarian regimes, leaders had an incentive to create private and excludable goods for supporters, as opposed to public goods for the mass citizenry.” Robert Worth, a journalist for the New York Times, notes: “Ordinary Iranians complain that the sanctions are hurting them, while those at the top are unscathed, or even benefit. Many wealthy Iranians made huge profits in recent weeks by buying dollars at the government rate (available to insiders) and then selling them for almost twice as many rials on the soaring black market.”

In addition to the regime’s ability to manipulate sanctions to their benefit, women and the middle class have emerged as the two groups most severely affected by sanctions.  Both groups are fundamental in Iran’s quest for progressive social and political change, and the regime consistently fights to repress these efforts. Sanctions help the regime’s efforts by impeding, and often reversing, the progress that these groups have struggled to make.

  • 25 July 2012
  • Posted By Roshan Alemi
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Sanctioning Iranian Women

Recently, the International Civil Society Action Network  (ICAN), provided an analysis of the effects sanctions have had in Iran, focusing in part on the impact of sanctions on Iranian women.

The report, “Killing them Softly: The Stark Impact of Sanctions on the Lives of Ordinary Iranians,” points to the wide range of direct ways sanctions are harming ordinary Iranians such as restricting access to foreign-made medicine in Iran and severe economic recession.

Sanctions, ICAN says, weaken society, not the state, and is undermining U.S. and EU credibility among Iranians.  “With the impact of current sanctions seeping into every day life now, many Iranians consider them to be a profoundly insidious and destructive force and source of basic human rights violations, affecting a wide cross section of Iranians.”

According to the report, it is Iranian women who are bearing the brunt of the economic and social punishment of sanctions.  The sanctions, ICAN says, are marginalizing women by pushing them out of the job market and limiting their access to education. With women’s education as a “key engine of socio-political change,” sanctions are impeding progressive change for women and the greater society in Iran. Thus, in addition to all the detrimental direct effects, “externally imposed sanctions will allow conservatives to further their regressive social agenda,” and will limit progressive social change within Iran.

“The US and EU have been strong proponents of the global women, peace and security agenda with the development of priorities and action plans to ensure women’s empowerment,” reads the report. “But sanctions undermine and contravene these policies. The contradictory nature of US and EU rhetoric, policies and actions increase the Iranian public’s suspicion about them, and credence to charges of hypocrisy.”

Sign the Petition

 

7,349 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.

Sincerely,

[signature]

Share this with your friends: