At NIAC, we are proud of the work we do for our community. Freedom, equality, and democracy are not just hopeful words, they are the foundations of a just world that we will continue to advocate for, starting here at home in the United States.
Our belief in a healthy democracy means that we respect the right for differing views and encourage insightful debate. It is through such thoughtful exchanges that we can learn and grow as a society.
To ensure legitimate debate, we must also make a distinction between genuine dialogue versus slander and misinformation. An unfortunate reality in Washington DC is that agenda-driven groups and individuals often resort to baseless smears to try to discredit those who disagree with them. This is true in political elections and in many policy debates, especially anything related to Middle East policy, and trickles down into the communities most impacted by these policy debates. Opponents of NIAC have frequently resorted to these same fear and misinformation tactics to try to silence NIAC, and divide and weaken our community.
Below we outline the facts about NIAC. If you have a question or believe there is misinformation that we have not addressed here, please email us at [email protected].
- Why do people continue to accuse NIAC of being “regime lobbyists”?
- Does NIAC support regime change?
- Position on JCPOA
- Does NIAC support the human rights of Iranians?
- NIAC’s position on sanctions
- Since the start of the protests after Mahsa (Jhina) Amini’s killing, what has NIAC’s response been?
- Does NIAC claim to represent Iranian people?
- What issues does NIAC work on?
- Do the individual views of NIAC staff, former staff, participants in NIAC events, or others perceived to have similar views on U.S. policy on Iran, reflect that of NIAC as an institution?
- Is NIAC a partisan organization?
Check out our video explainers
Why do people continue to accuse NIAC of being “regime lobbyists”?
- Where does NIAC and NIAC Action’s funding come from?
NIAC is a community-led and funded organization that is completely independent of any and all governments. The role of civil society organizations like ours is to hold governments accountable to the communities they represent, not to take marching orders from any government. NIAC does not receive money from any government. In the past, NIAC received grants from the National Endowment for Democracy ($25,000 in 2002, 2005, and 2006) and grants from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2010 ($84,132.33), 2011 ($67,406.57) and 2012 ($17,603.89).Over two-thirds of our funding comes from ordinary members of the Iranian American community and non-Iranian Americans who support peace and civil rights. The other one-third of our funding comes from major, highly respected charitable organizations. All of the information about our funding and tax returns are publicly available and featured on our website. NIAC holds a Platinum Seal of Transparency from Guidestar, a reputable organization that evaluates non-profits. We believe transparency is crucial and NIAC goes above and beyond in being fully transparent about our funding, governance, and activities. We encourage you to investigate whether the organizations and individuals making wild accusations about NIAC are actually willing to share how they are funded or offer anything close to the degree of transparency and accountability that we do. Frankly, NIAC has engaged in a two-decade long fight on this issue because our opponents are attacking a strength: we are a community-funded organization fighting against war and damaging U.S. interventions. Just as John Kerry was “swift-boated” in the 2004 election with false accusations of his military service, which was a political strength, so too are lies spread about NIAC to undermine our reputation and support. We see this kind of disinformation all too often in politics – birther attacks against Barack Obama, allegations that Biden did not win the 2020 election and even bizarre conspiracies about brutal violence targeting Speaker Pelosi’s husband. Right-wing voices routinely spout ridiculous information to harm their political adversaries despite there not being any truth to them.
- Does NIAC lobby for the Islamic Republic?
No, absolutely not. NIAC has never been and never will be a lobby for any government, including the Islamic Republic. NIAC is an independent organization that plays a legitimate and critical role in American civil society—as should all groups and people who seek to have a voice in our democracy.We lobby for our members and the Iranian-American community. NIAC Action engages in advocacy, or “lobbying” activities, to influence our elected U.S. government — such as meeting with U.S. government officials or organizing in-district meetings for Iranian Americans to meet their elected representatives and hold them accountable to their Iranian-American voters. This is a vital part of the democratic process and those who seek to attack or deter Iranian Americans from engaging in it only undermine our community.We believe that decisions about how people are ruled can only be made by those people — whether we are talking about Iran or here at home in America. NIAC is an American organization that seeks to ensure Iranian Americans and all Americans who support peace and justice have a voice in the American political process.NIAC Action works to influence our elected U.S. government and seeks to give a platform for Iranian Americans to have a voice in our democratic system. While NIAC and NIAC Action are not technically “lobbies” and do not employ lobbyists, we do engage in advocacy that includes lobbying activities — such as working with lawmakers to draft legislation or to support policies important to our community. This is a good thing! We believe it is critical for pro-peace Iranian Americans to have a lobbying voice – just like other groups do, from Jewish Americans and Indian Americans, to nurses, labor unions, and all other powerful and legitimate voices in American civic life.
- Is NIAC required to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act?
No. We are Americans, wanting peace with our country of heritage and advocating for diplomacy rather than war and sanctions on our families. We do not act as an “agent” of any government and only advocate on behalf of our membership of Iranian Americans and Americans supportive of our mission. As Iranian Americans, we are entitled to a say in the policies of our elected U.S. government — our Iranian heritage does not make us “agents” of Iran’s government or less entitled to our rights than other Americans.
- Why are there so many smears against NIAC?
Some opponents of NIAC’s work — who may have legitimate disagreements in opinion with us on various policies — have engaged in illegitimate attacks on NIAC to win policy debates through misinformation rather than on the merits of their case. These groups include many in the pro-intervention political sphere, others in the rightwing pro-Israel crowd, and some among Iranian dissident groups in the diaspora. As an American organization, NIAC only exists in the United States, despite the false information claiming NIAC operates around the world. While the individuals and groups attacking NIAC may have the funds and manpower to engage in such activity, NIAC is a community-funded non-profit organization with limited resources to combat these smear campaigns. In fact, one major goal of these smear campaigns is to divert our resources and distract from the actual policy debate and work. As such, NIAC has often used its limited staff and resources to prioritize our mission and work, rather than trying to engage with and “disprove” every false accusation and rumor. This balance has been difficult to strike, and at times it would have been wise to engage in more work to counter false allegations. The attacks against NIAC have intensified as the organization has grown and NIAC has greater influence and credibility. These actions, that often include deliberate misinformation and behavior aimed at intimidating Iranian Americans to withdraw from the political process, are oftentimes predatory against a community that has not historically been engaged in the American political process and vulnerable to undemocratic, illegitimate fear tactics and disinformation. These toxic debates are attacks not just on our mission, but on all Iranian Americans, regardless of political disposition. NIAC seeks to engage in a debate about policies and what is best to advance our community’s interest in peace, democracy, and universal rights. Lies, personal attacks, and attempts to silence opposing voices have no place in our discourse and ultimately hurt everybody.
- Why is NIAC accused of being a “mouthpiece” for the Islamic Republic?
When NIAC offers analysis to contextualize current events in Iran it is trying to provide the most accurate reading of the reality on the ground while taking into consideration history, culture, and politics. Such accuracy is crucial to guiding sound U.S. policy decisions. For instance, when the Islamic Republic uses political rhetoric to blame foreign actors for anti-state protests in Iran, it is critical to provide an accurate picture that explains the organic nature of those protests. Regardless of the political views or desires we may have, the analysis must reflect Iran’s diverse population and political views. Providing this analysis and information is not an endorsement or support for any group or individuals.While our critics will point to ways in which NIAC calls for policies that the Islamic Republic sometimes seeks—such as sanctions relief—this is to be expected for an organization engaged in conflict resolution. Seeking to ensure ordinary Iranians can benefit from sanctions relief, and that the government of Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons, fit within the agenda of the progressive, pro-peace and nonproliferation organizations that we partner with. In fact, the desire to solve the nuclear issue with Iran through diplomatic means has long been the position of a majority of Americans, as well as the international community. At the same time, most of the work NIAC does in no way parallels the wishes or changing positions of the Islamic Republic. For instance, we are proud of our work on equitable immigration and other policies that are discriminatory against Iranian Americans, the unjust closure of Iranian-American bank accounts or freezing of peer-to-peer payment apps like Venmo, engaging Iranian Americans in U.S. democracy and representation in our government, spotlighting human rights abuses inside Iran, highlighting the works of Iranian-American artists and writers, uplifting the LGBTQ+ voices in the Iranian-American community, standing for critical civil rights issues in the United States, and other such work.Some critics have also cited that NIAC “blames” the U.S. or other outside interests for protests in Iran, and as such “sounds like” the Islamic Republic. On the contrary, NIAC has stated clearly that the Iranian people have legitimate grievances that we have documented, that protests are organic and people led, and Iranians themselves should determine the future of their country. While the Islamic Republic uses the narrative of “foreign plots” to avert blame for its own corruption, mismanagement, authoritarianism, and abuses, NIAC recognizes and condemns those abuses.However, as an American organization, NIAC recognizes that it has greater leverage to change the policies of our own elected U.S. government. As a result, we have sought to change policies that amount to collective punishment, undermine national and global security, and violate the principles of peace and human rights. Much like Iranians in Iran focus their grievances on their own rulers, as Americans we focus our grievances on the U.S. government and oppose policies that undermine the values that we espouse.Ultimately, a political view that is led by values rather than ideology or agenda, would find no issue with criticizing any party. For this reason, NIAC openly criticizes the Islamic Republic and the U.S., where the focus remains on our own government where we have the power and responsibility to hold our elected officials accountable to the will of the American people.
While we understand that this is a lot of information, we wanted to provide thorough answers to the various questions that have been raised. We encourage anyone who is genuinely interested in knowing what NIAC does and works towards to visit the website and examine it first hand.
- Where does NIAC and NIAC Action’s funding come from?
Does NIAC support regime change?
We support regime change led by the Iranian people inside Iran and the fundamental right of the Iranian people to decide their own future. Self-determination is a central principle of democracy that is core to NIAC’s values, and the current movement in Iran shows mass discontent with a system that has refused to meet the demands of Iranian civil society. It is the inalienable right of the Iranian people to decide their government, and NIAC has and will continue to always support them. NIAC supported Iranians when they called for reform, and when they pursued diplomacy, and again now when they are demonstrating against the Islamic Republic.
Historically, regime change has often meant the overthrow of a government by an outside force, like the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which we do not support. This should be understood in the context of decades of U.S.-led wars and militarism in the Middle East, which have failed to deliver on promises of democracy and freedom—such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya to name a few—and other failures of U.S. intervention. While NIAC has always maintained a position against a possible U.S.-led war in Iran, some of our fiercest critics – some with deep ties to governmental actors – have called explicitly for bombing Iran. Others oppose war rhetorically while supporting the end of diplomatic channels with Iran, which rules out offramps to military confrontation. NIAC has always been clear that war with Iran would be a massive violation of the human rights of Iranians, disrupt their organic movement for change and ultimately fail to deliver sustainable governance and prosperity.
Lasting and just change can only be led from within. Successful and sustainable change of governance can only succeed if it is led by, reflects, and achieves the goals of Iranians. How this change will occur is also up to the Iranian people. While we saw Iranians engage in the political system through electoral politics, voting (or boycotting elections), and support diplomacy with the hopes of achieving meaningful reforms, the obstinate refusal of the Islamic Republic to heed these calls—along with ongoing and even worsening political and social restrictions and economic turmoil—have pushed Iranians toward calls to topple the current system.
We do not support foreign-led regime change, such as the U.S. government or any outside influences pushing their own agenda or imposing regime change from the outside. We know what U.S.- led regime change looks like and that is not what the Iranian people are asking for.
Our job is to amplify the voices of Iranians, identify how best we can work in solidarity to support them against brutal repression, and make sure their movement does not get hijacked by outsiders with their own motives. Our government—the U.S.—can support Iranian people by condemning the abuses of the Islamic Republic, imposing targeted sanctions against abusers, urging international accountability, and ensuring our policies do no harm, like sanctions that impede internet access for Iranian people and inadvertently aid the Islamic Republic’s attempts to shut down internet access.
- Does NIAC believe that the protestors want a revolution or regime change?
It is clear that many protesters in Iran do want a revolution and a change of regime.However, clarity sometimes gets lost in the language that we use. Broadly speaking, regime change means the forceful replacement of one government or ruler with another. This can be done through foreign-led regime change, coup, or revolution. NIAC supports the self-determination of Iranian people, which means the autonomy and agency for Iranians to decide their own future. If the Iranian people carry out a movement that leads to the toppling of the Islamic Republic and the establishment of a new government—which represents the democratic will of the people—this would usually be called a revolution that is one form of regime change. Though Iranians have attempted in the past to change the system through reform and diplomacy, the refusal of the state to reform or meet the people’s demands has pushed a significant portion of the Iranian people towards calling for toppling the very system of authoritarianism that has precluded such change. In this respect, NIAC fully supports the will of the Iranian people to establish a government that serves its people. Unlike the Islamic Republic and its defenders who undermine the legitimate grievances and agency of the Iranian people by attributing protests to the actions of outside powers, NIAC fully recognizes the agency of Iranians. The strength of the ongoing protest movement is that it is wholly organic and in direct response to the abuses of the Islamic Republic. While others outside the movement would certainly like to hijack the movement for their own ends, which do not necessarily include democracy, they have clearly not done so. Finally, the will of the American people must also factor into whether the U.S. should intervene militarily or pursue a coerced regime change strategy. Poll after poll has shown that Americans do not want military intervention and a repeat of the failures of the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. Additionally, unilateral U.S. military intervention does not fit the ethos of internationalism and accountability that should define a legitimate global rules-based order.
- Is NIAC an Iranian opposition group?
No, NIAC does not seek power in Iran or any future Iranian government nor is its mission to overthrow any government. Instead, NIAC is an American organization, run and funded by American people and reputable American foundations. NIAC does not in any way seek to attain any political power, or any kind of power, inside Iran. We are an American organization and seek to advance the interests of Iranian Americans here at home. Though a significant portion of our work deals in U.S. foreign policy vis-a-vis Iran—as those policies impact our community here at home in the U.S. and our loved ones who may still reside in Iran—fundamentally, NIAC’s mission is to increase Iranian-American participation in the civic process in the United States. In this regard, while NIAC strongly condemns the human rights abuses of the Islamic Republic and supports self-determination for the Iranian people—as these principles reflect the values we espouse in the U.S.—our central focus as an organization is on U.S. foreign and domestic policies as they impact our community, and holding our government accountable to the will of the American people.
- Does NIAC believe that the protestors want a revolution or regime change?
Position on JCPOA
U.S. negotiations on the JCPOA are on pause and NIAC supports the Biden administration’s view that right now the priority should be on protests in Iran and events that are unfolding on the ground, including by spotlighting and rallying the international community to halt ongoing, mass human rights abuses.
When Iranians and Iranian Americans overwhelmingly supported engagement and signing the JCPOA, NIAC worked diligently with our community to support it and ensure it was grounded as much as possible in the needs of the Iranian people and their diaspora community here in the US. We were pleased to see some initial easing of economic pressures on ordinary Iranians, including a rise in GDP and a reduction in inflation that followed implementation of the agreement. Complaints of medicine shortages also receded amid the deal’s implementation, which has always been a major concern of our members. Moreover, Iran’s nuclear program was drastically curtailed, significantly reducing the risks of war over the nuclear issue including amid the Trump presidency – despite the US withdrawal.
Our position on this and all other issues are based on the votes of our members. Our support for the JCPOA was always based on ending broad sanctions that hurt ordinary Iranians and undermine human rights and democracy movements; we believe these must be targeted at bad actors, not the whole society. And we do not want Iran, or any country, to have nuclear weapons and we do not want the U.S. or Israel to start a war with Iran over the nuclear issue.
Despite the overwhelming support for the JCPOA in 2015 among Iranians, Americans, and the international community, many critics of diplomacy with Iran maintained an anti-JCPOA posture. This position effectively sought to deny many Iranians agency over their future, and those critics maintained the same views regardless of the situation on the ground, while NIAC’s position has been based on the situation on the ground.
Support for goals-oriented diplomacy should not be mistaken with support for the Islamic Republic, but rather the recognition of the costs and benefits of the options before the United States and international community as a whole. The international community—which promotes the ideals of human rights and accountability—does not wish to legitimize the abusers of those ideals. However, it operates in the reality in which many such abusers exist, tries to mitigate their abuses, and works toward diplomatic solutions to address various crises. In fact, the nature of diplomacy is such that it is often more critical and needed for one’s adversaries than friends.
While our views on the JCPOA are not ideologically bound and changing events on the ground must always be taken into account, NIAC’s values of peace and policies that do not harm ordinary civilians are not up for debate.
NIAC has always been a leading advocate for the people of Iran, whether at home or in the diaspora. When George W. Bush threatened war, NIAC was the people’s voice in advocating for peace. When Ahmadinejad stole an election, NIAC elevated the people’s demands for reform and justice. When Trump passed the Muslim ban, NIAC fought for our people’s freedom to travel – ensuring it was overturned. And now, when the gasht-e ershad murdered Mahsa and women are leading a movement for change, NIAC shouts with them: woman, life, freedom.
Does NIAC support the human rights of Iranians?
We support universal human rights, which not only includes civil liberties issues here at home in the U.S. but also human rights inside Iran. We consistently spotlight violations of the Iranian people’s human rights by the Iranian government, educate lawmakers and officials on human rights issues inside Iran, and advocate for U.S. policies that can improve human rights. This is why we have helped pass targeted human rights sanctions and secured support from the Senate in the campaign to establish a human rights rapporteur, and also why we challenge sanctions that violate Iranians’ human rights and work to prevent war.
- Does NIAC criticize or whitewash the Islamic Republic’s human rights abuses?
NIAC consistently condemns human rights violations by Iran’s government and other policies on which it is appropriate for an American organization to weigh in. As an American civil society organization, we criticize the Iranian government on issues of international law – such as violations of international human rights agreements to which Iran is signatory. As an American organization, we seek to refrain from engaging in Iranian domestic debates that are for Iranians to decide. NIAC has not just been a vocal critic of the Iranian government’s human rights abuses, we seek to actually improve human rights through real and appropriate actions, such as our support for targeted human rights sanctions or our campaign that helped establish an independent UN human rights monitor on Iran. In contrast to whitewashing the crimes of the Islamic Republic, NIAC has written about and condemned these crimes. For instance, though critics will often falsely claim that NIAC does not condemn the gross abuses against Iran’s LGBTQ+ community or the shameful comments of Iran’s former Foreign Minister Javad Zarif condoning Iran’s draconian laws, NIAC has clearly condemned both. Not only does NIAC support the Iranian-American LGBTQ+ community at home, it also condemns the abuse of that community in our country of heritage. Beyond issues of the LGBTQ+ community, NIAC writes about and condemns a wide range of human rights abuses in Iran, from the heinous use of the death penalty, arbitrary detentions of dual nationals and other foreign nationals, targeting voices of dissent, to deadly force against protestors, discriminatory laws against women and minorities, lack of due process, and repressing the basic freedoms of the people of Iran, among other violations. NIAC believes the Iranian government, like all governments, must be held accountable for its human rights abuses and its failure to abide by international human rights laws to which it is signatory. NIAC’s latest work on human rights can be found here and our Human Rights Tracker spotlighting human rights issues can be found here.
- What has NIAC done on human rights?
For two decades, NIAC has advocated for and successfully won important measures for human rights in Iran that extend even to the present-day protests. NIAC helped draft the first targeted human rights sanctions targeting Iranian government officials for their abuses in 2010. We built critical Senate support to establish a United Nations Human Rights Monitor on Iran in 2011 to investigate, spotlight, and pressure Iranian authorities on human rights violations. Since 2009, we have worked to ensure that U.S. sanctions do not unintentionally aid the Iranian government’s repression and prevent the Iranian people from being able to communicate freely online and secure key communications technology, which most recently led directly to the Biden Administration recently lifting restrictions on internet communications tools for Iranians when the women-led protests began in September. Since 2019, NIAC has produced its Human Rights Tracker, which monitors and spotlights the human rights situation and violations inside Iran.
- Does NIAC criticize or whitewash the Islamic Republic’s human rights abuses?
NIAC’s position on sanctions
NIAC does not oppose all sanctions, in fact we helped draft the law that authorizes targeted human rights sanctions against Iranian government officials. But we do oppose broad sanctions that punish people instead of the government. We do not need to just look at Iran to understand this – look at Cuba or the situation in Iraq leading up to the U.S. invasion. Broad sanctions entrench and enrich authoritarian governments. They make the rich and corrupt richer and more corrupt, and they impoverish and isolate the people in a way that makes it harder for them to stand up to their government and secure sustainable change.
For instance, as protests in Iran expand and there are growing calls for nationwide strikes, Iranian workers would be better positioned to participate in such strikes if there was a healthy middle class and working-class Iranians were in a better economic situation to afford lost wages. Sanctions have had the opposite impact, by hurting most Iranian workers and their buying power with a declining economy, hyperinflation, and disappearing middle class.
Hence, we do not support broad sanctions that have impoverished ordinary Iranians and deprived them of vital life-saving medicine, including during the pandemic. We believe they should be lifted and instead targeted fully against Iran’s government. This reflects the position of many human rights defenders on the ground in Iran who have warned that sanctions further securitize civil society in Iran and work against their demands for freedom and an end to oppression.
Though critics have argued that there are humanitarian exemptions for sanctions, the reality on the ground is that the existing sanctions program impedes the flow of such essential goods, as stated by President Biden in April of 2020 when he was a presidential candidate. This is because, despite the exemptions, companies, banks and organizations – particularly in Europe – are so afraid of running afoul of U.S. sanctions that they avoid any transactions or business with Iran. The impact of sanctions on the flow of these goods was confirmed by UN human rights experts as the world was engulfed by the COVID-19 crisis and sanctions prevented states “from adequately fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.”
There is clear literature on sanctions that show, “Economic sanctions rarely succeed at achieving their goals.” U.S. economist Gary Hufbauer has done extensive research on sanctions and found that in “about a third of the cases there’s some success; that doesn’t mean a complete triumph, but some success. But when it’s just unilaterally US sanctioned (which means no ally support), it drops to about a fifth of the cases. And the characteristics of the countries, who are the targets, and their ability to resist seem pretty much the same as before.”
In the case of sanctions for regime change and democratization, the evidence suggests they are not only ineffective, but also that they amplify harmful impacts. An important example to demonstrate their ineffectiveness is Cuba, which has been under a U.S. embargo for more than six decades without achieving U.S. policy objectives or a change in governance. In fact, the international community has overwhelmingly voted in favor of ending the embargo, which the United States has continued to ignore.
In the case of Iran, the “maximum pressure” campaign of the Trump administration also failed to achieve its policy objectives. As such, Iran expanded its nuclear program, did not negotiate a new agreement, continued its activities that challenge U.S. interests such as supporting militias and proxy groups in the region, all while the state has become more repressive against its own people. In fact, experts have argued that unilateral sanctions hurt civilians, and particularly vulnerable groups like women and children.
Iran is at the most sanctioned country in the world, matched only in some measures by Russia in February of 2022 after its illegal invasion of Ukraine. Though some critics of NIAC claim to be against broad-based sanctions that harm civilians in Iran, they do not support efforts to lift them through diplomacy despite it being one of the broadest sanctions programs in history. You can’t oppose sanctions unless you support good faith efforts to secure their removal, as NIAC has done.
Since the start of the protests after Mahsa (Jhina) Amini’s killing, what has NIAC’s response been?
From the outset of these protests, we have unequivocally supported the Iranian people and their right to protest, to dignity and freedom, and to determine their own future.
We’ve met with and briefed top officials in the Biden Administration and in Congress and pushed successfully for the Administration to open up the internet in Iran, making it easier for Iranians to freely communicate with the world.
We helped develop legislation that we are advocating for Members of Congress to pass that condemns the killing of Mahsa (Jhina) Amini and urges targeting of sanctions on human rights abusers and further efforts to support internet freedom.
We continue to brief Congress and the Administration on internet restrictions, actionable next steps, and showing firm solidarity with Iranians fighting for their freedoms.
We supported the call from human rights organizations urging additional pressure from the United Nations and a new fact finding mission to hold abusers on the ground accountable, which was passed by the UN Human Rights Council in November. And we supported the call from prominent Iranian women human rights activists inside Iran to remove Iran from the UN Commission on the Status of Women in light of its violent repression of the women and youth-led movement for justice.
We have demanded Meta stop censoring videos of protests in Iran. Because of the pressure we and others were able to mount, we met with Meta representatives and discussed the path forward to fixing this growing concern.
We have reported consistently on the countless human rights violations happening right now in Iran.
Does NIAC claim to represent Iranian people?
NIAC does not claim, nor has it ever claimed, to represent the people of Iran. We represent our own constituency of Iranian Americans at home in the United States. We work with and on behalf of constituencies who share our values and want to advance the same policies of peace, equitable immigration, civil rights issues that impact our community, and concerns about the policies of our lawmakers, which is the U.S. government.
The Iranian-American community is not a monolith, it is a large and diverse group of people spread throughout the U.S. from various ethnic, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds, with varying political views. We have nearly 15,000 donors and over 75,000 supporters. NIAC respects the fact that there are differing views in our community and that no one individual or group can claim to represent all Iranian Americans. At the same time, we recognize the fact that having competing political views is a foundational democratic principle which we must uphold, rather than delegitimize those voices. The freedom to have and express varying opinions is a cornerstone of our democracy.
What issues does NIAC work on?
NIAC’s ultimate mission is to increase civic engagement and build real political power for Iranian Americans to advance peace and diplomacy with Iran, secure equitable immigration policies, and protect the civil rights of all Americans. NIAC works on issues that affect the Iranian-American community and that reflect our broader values. As such, we work to educate and advocate for our community to participate in their democracy—such as registering voters and encouraging Iranian Americans to run for office—protect the civil rights of Iranian Americans and all Americans, and advance diplomatic solutions over war.
These areas of focus do not mean that NIAC does not care about other issues, however, it is important to note that different organizations focus on various subjects and issues as their central concerns. For instance, if NIAC does not work on climate justice that does not mean it denies the reality of climate change or that it does not care about the climate crisis. NIAC simply focuses its mission on U.S. policies, our community’s engagement in democracy at home, and peace.
Our work includes a range of topics in six major areas:
- Peace and diplomacy
- Equitable immigration
- Building political power
- Civil rights
- Community and culture
- Spotlighting human rights
Learn more about our programmatic work here.
- Why does NIAC weigh in on civil rights issues in the U.S., like the killing of George Floyd or LGBTQ+ issues?
We are an Iranian-American organization and civil rights issues in the United States affect all of us. It is important to remember that the Iranian-American community, like Iran itself, is diverse and includes various ethnic, racial, religious and other identities. Many members of our community are LGBTQ+, as well as Black or Jewish, and therefore these are issues that pertain to our community as well.While cases like that of Bijan Ghaisar who was killed by police violence, or Shayan Mazroei who was murdered by a white supremacist, show the importance of addressing civil rights and protections for Iranian Americans, the values that we espouse must certainly include civil rights for all Americans. When protestors swarmed U.S. airports in support of victims of the Muslim Ban, it was Americans of all stripes that came out to stand up for those impacted by the ban. In fact, it is because we care about civil rights at home that we support the same principles for the people of Iran. In order to be consistent in our values, anyone who advocates for civil rights in Iran or for the rights of Iranian Americans, should also be an advocate for the same rights for all Americans.Though NIAC does focus on issues that predominantly impact the Iranian-American community, it weighs in on significant national issues that reflect the same values. Solidarity is not just an action that reflects our principles, it is how we build community and allies that share our same values in hopes to contribute to American civil society at large and create a more equitable and just society at home.
- Why does NIAC weigh in on issues outside of the U.S. (i.e. Palestinian rights, criticism of Israel, Saudi Arabia, etc)?
We value peace and human rights and know that, particularly in the region, it isn’t possible for U.S.-Iran policy to simply exist in a vacuum. There are many actors seeking to shape U.S. policy toward Iran to their own ends. This includes Israel’s government and Mohammad bin Salman. We try to choose carefully where we weigh in, but when the U.S. turns a blind eye to Saudi rights abuses or Israel bombing Palestinians, that cheapens America’s moral authority when it rightfully condemns Iran’s abuses. NIAC has urged the international community to hold the Islamic Republic’s abusers accountable, however, such a system of accountability would be much more effective if the same laws were applied to all abusers. That being said, NIAC rarely weighs in on rights issues outside of the U.S. or Iran. When it does weigh in on rights issues in other contexts, it is often a criticism of U.S. policy and therefore an exercise in holding our own elected officials accountable to the values we promote as a nation. As Americans, we always have the right to weigh in on issues that impact our rights at home and how our policies impact the rights of innocent people in other nations. As an Iranian-American organization who has long advocated against war, we also weigh in when U.S. friends and allies in the region push policies that promote military action and conflict, undermine U.S. national and global security interests, and go against the will of the American people.
Do the individual views of NIAC staff, former staff, participants in NIAC events, or others perceived to have similar views on U.S. policy on Iran, reflect that of NIAC as an institution?
The only views we are responsible for are the published opinions and statements of the organization, as well as the current staff’s public commentary on the policy areas we are working on. NIAC respects the right of the individual to hold and express their own opinions and, as such, does not police the activities of staff members that fall outside the purview of the organization.
Over 20 years as an organization, there have been many people who have commented at NIAC events. These include current diplomats and national security officials at the State Department, White House and Pentagon; Iranian-American activists and authors; prominent journalists and news anchors; former Israeli and Saudi officials and many more. Participation in a NIAC event signifies nothing more than what was said at that place and time in that current political environment.
Likewise, there are many scholars, experts and activists who may believe in similar things as NIAC—or did at one time—who have never even so much as attended a NIAC event. Regrettably, there is a long-running disinformation campaign to target not just NIAC, but anyone—particularly in the Iranian-American community—who is overtly opposed to military intervention and an escalatory track that leads to war. If you have questions about the views or work of individuals not currently associated with NIAC, we encourage you to engage them respectfully and consider their full body of work. In a democratic society, there must be space for differing perspectives, focuses and expertise.
Is NIAC a partisan organization?
NIAC and NIAC Action are non-partisan and seek relationships with members of all parties, and have met with staff and Members of Congress affiliated with each party. Often times, we support legislation that is introduced on a bipartisan basis, including legislation to end visa waiver discrimination and condemn the Iranian government’s human rights abuses. Of course, in this hyperpartisan age, such compromises and consensus can be difficult to forge. Regardless, our commitment is to values and positions on issues, not to any political party, and we will work with members of any party to advance our community’s interests and values. Any endorsement or support of candidates by NIAC Action are based entirely on the policy positions and common values of that individual.
Check out our video explainers
- NIAC supports democracy and freedom for Iranians
- NIAC supports internet freedom in Iran
- Myths vs. Facts about NIAC
- NIAC supports Iranian people’s right to self-determination
- Where does NIAC get its funding?
- Clubhouse Financial Transparency
- Clubhouse NIAC Educates our community on Civic Engagement
- Clubhouse Iranian Americans and Diplomacy
- Clubhouse NIAC is an American Organization