Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
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].
Where does NIAC and NIAC Action’s funding come from?
As of 2019, approximately 80% of our funding comes from individual donors – primarily Iranian Americans and American allies who support our work to advance peace and diplomacy, fair immigration, civil rights, and civic engagement. The remaining 20% of our funding comes from major foundations, such as the Ploughshares Fund, Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, Open Society Foundation, and more. We strongly believe in transparency and share our financial information publicly here.
Does NIAC receive money 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).
Does NIAC lobby for the Islamic Republic of Iran?
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.
Does NIAC criticize the Islamic Republic?
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 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.
Does NIAC support the human rights of Iranians?
We support universal human rights, which includes civil liberties issues here at home in the U.S. and human rights inside Iran. We frequently 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.
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.
Is NIAC a lobby?
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?
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.
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.
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.
Fundamentally, NIAC’s mission is to increase Iranian-American participation in the civic process and 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.
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, protect the civil rights of Iranian Americans and all Americans, and advance diplomatic solutions over war. Today, NIAC’s priorities include repealing the Muslim Ban, registering voters and encouraging Iranian Americans to run for office, and preventing war in Iran. Learn more about our programmatic work here.
How many members does NIAC have?
NIAC has earned the support of over 10,000 unique donors since its inception in 2002. Over the past ten years, we average 1,971 unique donors each year. NIAC has a member list of over 65,000 supporters. Since its inception in 2015, NIAC Action has built a network of over 30,000 members. This number fluctuates month to month as membership must be renewed every 12 months.
Is NIAC a partisan organization?
NIAC and NIAC Action are non-partisan and seek relationships with members of all parties. 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.