How the Trump Administration has Abused the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to Ban Muslims from the U.S. 

President Trump’s Muslim ban survived judicial review largely due to a favorable interpretation of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which provides the President with authority to limit the entry of aliens. In the majority opinion of the Supreme Court case, Chief Justice Roberts stated that “the President has lawfully exercised the broad discretion granted to him under [the Immigration and Nationality Act] to suspend the entry of aliens into the United States.” 

In so doing, the Court ignored a clear track record of discriminatory intent from the President as well as numerous legal protections – under both the Constitution and a separate provision of the INA – against discrimination. In her dissenting opinion, Justice Sotomayor said that the majority was “ignoring the facts, misconstruing our legal precedent, and turning a blind eye to the pain and suffering the Proclamation inflicts upon countless families and individuals, many of whom are United States citizens.” Now, tens of thousands of individuals are barred by the ban every year for no reason other than the President’s bigotry.

Following the travesty of the Supreme Court’s decision, Congress has a chance to clarify that Congress has not given the President a blank check to discriminate. The NO BAN Act (H.R. 2214/S. 1123) would rescind the Muslim ban as well as rectify fatal flaws within the INA that have allowed the Muslim Ban, and other bans, to be implemented. The NO BAN Act, which currently has over 210 cosponsors, is the best way to halt Trump’s discriminatory ban as well as prevent future Presidents from violating civil rights and abusing their authority on discriminatory grounds. 

The Immigration & Nationality Act and the Muslim Ban

  • The INA, passed in 1965, contains a broad, exclusionary provision in Section 212(f) that the Trump administration has used to justify numerous discriminatory policies. 
  • Section 212(f) states that the President may “suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens” whenever he or she determines their entry to be “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” 
  • The original intent of the INA was to do away with the quota system and to usher in a new era of non-discrimination in our immigration system. It included language that barred discrimination on the basis of race, sex, nationality, and place of residence, but not religion. The Supreme Court, in its decision that ultimately upheld the ban, implemented a much broader interpretation of the 212(f) statue that has now endowed the Presidency with near-unfettered authority in its immigration policy. 
  • To date, the Trump administration has used this broadly worded, 54-year old statute, to ban individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries, restrict healthcare for immigrants, and effectively end asylum at the southern border. While the latter two policies have been held up in the courts, the administration’s legal justifications for both have rested once again on the INA and its 212(f) provision. 

The NO BAN Act: Fixing the INA and Repealing the Ban

  • The NO BAN Act achieves two goals: 1) it immediately rescinds the Muslim ban, asylum ban, and refugee ban; and 2) puts in place standards for the authority currently provided by the INA.  
  • In the INA’s current form, the 212(f) statute does not codify what factors determine whether an aliens’ entry is “detrimental” to U.S. interests, what restrictions are “appropriate,” and how long those restrictions should last. These gaps provide broad latitude to a President to mask discriminatory actions under Executive privilege, as Trump has done.
  • The NO BAN Act would remedy these gaps by curtailing the broad and unspecific language in the current law and by requiring the government to meet a more stringent standard in suspending or restricting entry based on “credible facts” and connected to “specific acts” that have actually occurred.  
  • With the NO BAN Act, Congress would also be routinely notified and briefed on the status, implementation, and legal authority for the executive’s actions. It would also expand the INA’s anti-discrimination language by specifically prohibiting religious-based discrimination. 
  • While the ban has been implemented in some form or another for nearly three years, Congress has only held one hearing on its implementation. The NO BAN Act provides greater avenues for oversight by Congress on the use of such authorities in order to hold administrations accountable.
  • The legislation would still allow the President to respond to imminent threats such as disease outbreaks and other events that are legitimate threats to public health and safety, but it guards against blanket bans on ethic, religious, and country-specific groups.
  • Moreover, even prior to the ban, immigrants wishing to come to the United States already went through one of the most exhaustive vetting processes in the world. This system has proven to be remarkably effective for the government’s counterterrorism policies and does not need a bigoted, discriminatory ban to augment the system. 

Without the NO BAN Act, President Trump has a blank check to ban entire nations from the United States with little Congressional oversight and little remaining legal recourse for affected communities. With the NO BAN Act, Trump’s Muslim ban would be no more and future Presidents would have to meet stringent criteria tied to facts in order to institute bans, while both Congress and affected communities would have substantial recourse to step-in in the event of a discriminatory order. The choice is clear: Congress must pass the NO BAN Act.  

Additional Resources
National Iranian American Council (NIAC) – Discriminatory Nature of the Ban  
National Immigration Law Center (NILC) – FAQ: The No Ban Act
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – Congressional Action to End the Bans
Congressional Research Service – Executive Authority to Exclude Aliens: In Brief
The Supreme Court of the United States: Trump v. Hawaii


Zarif Says Iran Might Leave Nonproliferation Treaty

Week of January 20th, 2020 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

Zarif Says Iran Might Leave Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)

Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Iran was prepared to leave the NPT after the JCPOA’s European parties triggered the accord’s “dispute resolution mechanism.”The dispute resolution mechanism initiates a process that can potentially lead to the reimposition of UN Security Council sanctions against Iran.

Zarif stated that Iran’s steps to reduce compliance with the JCPOA are over, but that it was prepared to leave the NPT if UN sanctions are reimposed. He stated: “The steps to reduce compliance are over but if European countries continue their improper behavior or send Iran’s case to the UN Security Council, we will leave the NPT.”

In early January, Iran took its fifth and final step in reducing compliance with the deal, in which Iranian officials said they would no longer abide by any of the deal’s “operational limits.” The final limit Iran said it would cease compliance with was on its number of operational centrifuges. Given Iran previously ceased compliance with the deal’s limits on uranium enrichment capacity, level of enrichment, the stockpile of enriched uranium, and research and development (of more advanced centrifuges), Iranian officials framed this step as a final cessation of compliance with all of the deal’s limits.

However, Iran technically remains in the deal and has said the steps it has taken to reduce compliance reflect a measure in the accord. In announcing the fifth and final step, Iranian officials also said the IAEA will maintain the same level of inspections access and that Iran was prepared to fully return to its commitments if the other parties to the deal met their obligations on sanctions relief. They also said that going forward Iran will develop its nuclear program in accordance to its “technical needs.”

Zarif added in his remarks this week that Iran had already triggered the JCPOA’s dispute resolution mechanism in November 2018. He stated: “The Islamic Republic of Iran officially started the discussion of resolving disputes in May 2018 after America left the deal. Three letters were sent on May 10, 2018, August 26, 2018, and in November 2018 to EU Foreign Policy Chief Frederica Mogherini and in these it was officially declared that Iran would initiate the accord’s dispute resolution mechanism.”

Zarif added: “In the letter that was written to Ms Mogherini in November 2018, we emphasized that Iran had triggered the dispute resolution mechanism and reached the end of this process, and that thus we had no choice but to begin reducing our compliance with the deal.”

Zarif said that after this letter, Iran gave the European Union “seven months [to meet its obligations] and in May of 2018 began reducing compliance with the deal.” Zarif then said that Europe’s actions on the JCPOA and triggering the dispute resolution mechanism were in “no way legal.”

Zarif further said about Iran’s compliance with the NPT: “If the Europeans take more actions, based on the letter of President Rouhani in May 2018, the issue of Iran leaving the NPT will be brought forward.”

Back to Top

Guardian Council Disqualifies MP Candidates, Spurring Rouhani Backlash

The Guardian Council disqualified 80 incumbent members of parliament from running for reelection, out of a total of 290 members in the body. According to the conservative Tasnim outlet, “80 reformist and principlist (conservative) representatives” have been disqualified. The parliamentary election is on February 21, 2020.

Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, the Guardian Council’s spokesperson, said the disqualified candidates would have five days to appeal the disqualification. This five-day window ended on January 16th.

The list of disqualified candidates included many prominent reformists. This included outspoken MPs like Mahmoud Sadeghi, Elias Hazrati, Ali Motahari, Mohammad Reza Tabesh, and Fatemeh Saeedi.

Based off the Iranian constitution, the Interior Ministry (part of the elected presidential administration) manages elections and the Guardian Council vets candidates. The Guardian Council is also the final authority on confirming the “validity” of elections. In past elections, the Guardian Council has predominantly disqualified reformist candidates.

President Rouhani condemned the disqualifications. He stated: “The people like diversity. Let all parties and groups participate in elections. There will certainly be no cost. You can’t run the country with one faction.”

In response, Guardian Council spokesperson Kadkhodaei accused Rouhani of advancing an “anti-national project.” He stated: “Creating controversy to approve people who aren’t qualified is not new. But the president entering this anti-national project is regrettable.”

In October, Rouhani also spurred hardline backlash after he said Iran’s first post-revolutionary parliament was the “best parliament” and its election was the “best election.” This parliament was elected in March 1980 and was comprised of a wide-range of political groups, including the National Front, the Mujahedin-e Khalq, and other groups that were eventually excised by the Islamic Republic.

Back to Top

Massive Mourning Processions for Soleimani in Iran & Iraq

After IRGC Gen. Qassem Soleimani was assassinated in a U.S. drone strike at the Baghdad International Airport, massive funeral processions were held across Iran and Iraq. Soleimani was killed alongside Iraqi PMU commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and several others. Official funeral processions for them brought out massive crowds of mourners–seemingly in the millions–in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad, Karbala, and Najaf, and then in the Iranian cities of Ahvaz, Mashhad, Tehran, Qom, and Kerman.

After Soleimani’s killing, Iran’s Supreme National Security said Iran would respond with “harsh revenge” at an “appropriate time and place.” This was followed by a ballistic missile strike at the Ain Al-Assad military base in Iraq, which is the largest base in Iraq hosting U.S. troops and military equipment. There were no U.S. fatalities in the attack, which Iran gave advanced warning of, but the attack marked a precision strike on U.S. facilities.

During Soleimani’s funeral procession in his hometown of Kerman, a stampede broke out and led to 56 deaths.

Back to Top

Rouhani Administration Deflects Blame for Ukrainian Passenger Jet Downing

Ali Rabiee, the Rouhani administration’s spokesperson, has claimed that no administration official knew that Ukrainian passenger jet 752 was shot down by an Iranian missile until days later. The aircraft was shot down early in the morning on Wednesday, January 8th, after an Iranian missile attack on U.S. bases in Iraq in retaliation for the U.S. assassination of IRGC Gen. Qassem Soleimani. 

Rabiee said that no Rouhani administration official knew that an Iranian missile shot down the aircraft until the evening of Friday, January 10th. Until then, government officials attributed the downing to a “technical error” and denied Iran shot down the jet. On the morning of January 11th, the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces announced the plane was accidentally shot down amid high U.S.-Iran tensions and a potential U.S. attack.

Rabiee stated: “No administration official including the president himself knew the main reason for the crash of the aircraft until the evening of Friday, which was due to unintentional defensive fire.”

Rabiee said that until then, Rouhani administration officials were going by the intelligence they were given. This was that “missiles had no role in this incident.”

Rabiee said that the Revolutionary Guards had notified its own command and hierarchy, but not the Rouhani administration. He proclaimed: “When the commander of the Revolutionary Guards says that chief commanders of the political system were notified, this means the hierarchy they are under, not the administration.”

Rabiee then “apologized” to the Iranian public and sought to deflect blame from the administration again: “The reality is that the administration itself was caught up in the cycle of getting faulty information and intelligence.”

President Rouhani called the shootdown of the aircraft a “great mistake and unforgivable.” He said the judiciary should set up a “special court with senior judges and dozens of specialists” to investigate the issue. He added: “The whole world will be watching our courts.”

Rouhani, who served as the head of Iran’s air defense systems for years, said many people were responsible for the incident. He stated: “Given the familiarity I have with air defense I know that it’s not just one person that is responsible. There are others. I want this to be made clear honestly to the people. It needs to be made clear to the people who was involved in this oversight.”

Rouhani also demanded accountability over when military officials reached the conclusion that a missile took down the aircraft, and why the rest of the government wasn’t notified until Friday.

Back to Top

Protests Over Plane Shootdown Target Supreme Leader & IRGC

On January 11th and 12th, after authorities announced the Ukrainian airliner was shot down accidentally, protests erupted in many Iranian cities. According to BBC Persian, “hundreds of people gathered in demonstrations in Tehran, Isfahan, Rasht, Kerman, Shiraz, Hamedan, and Borujerd to protest the lack of transparency about the reason for the passenger plane’s crash.”

In protests at Tehran’s Amir Kabir University and Sharif University, slogans were chanted against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and the IRGC. Demonstrators also called for the prosecution of the parties responsible for the incident. They also called for Khamenei’s resignation.

Anti-riot police appeared at many of the protests in Tehran and fired tear gas and hit demonstrators with batons. According to an eyewitness talking to BBC Persian: “When the slogans weren’t too radical, they [the riot police] didn’t do anything. But when Khamenei’s name was mentioned, they fired tear gas.”

According to BBC Persian, one video circulating on social media appeared to show women wounded from gunfire. BBC Persian stated: “In this video that says it was shot around Azadi square, several wounded women are seen. It appears that the cause of their injuries are bullet fire from security forces. This is as Tehran’s police chief purports that security forces have not fired at protestors.”

Many of the victims of the shot down Ukrainian passenger plane were Iranian students who were returning to Canada for their studies.

On January 16th, official funeral ceremonies for victims of the shoot down were held in different cities, including Tehran, Sanandaj, Mahabad, and Kermanshah. According to BBC Persian, many were marked by anti-government slogans and security forces were present at some of these processions.

Other funeral processions took place in Isfahan, Yazd, Hamedan, Zanjan and Qom, where the victims were from. According to BBC Persian, Iranian State TV aired some of the processions, but not the ones where anti-government slogans were shouted.

Back to Top

Khamenei Delivers First Friday Prayer Sermon in Years

Ayatollah Khamenei delivered a far-reaching a speech at Tehran’s weekly Friday Prayer ceremony, the first time he spoke at this podium in over eight years. Khamenei spoke on Gen. Qassem Soleimani’s assassination, the shootdown of the Ukrainian airliner, Europe triggering the JCPOA’s dispute resolution mechanism and the potential for negotiations, Iran’s upcoming parliamentary election, regional issues and Iran-Iraq relations.

Khamenei said the past two weeks were historic and consisted of “sour and sweet events and incidents that had lessons for the Iranian people.” Khamenei said that Soleimani’s funeral procession across Iran and in different parts of the region were a “day of God.”

He stated: “Yom Allah (Day of God) is a day when humans can witness the power of God’s hand in events. That day when tens of millions of people in Iran and hundreds of thousands of people in some countries came to the streets for the head of the Qods Force of the Revolutionary Guards and held the biggest funeral in the world, was a Day of God.”

Khamenei then lauded the Qods Force—which Soleimani headed—and said it went beyond being an “administrative organization.” The Qods Force is a “human institution with great and clear human motivations … The Qods Army is a force that looks at everyone everywhere. Warriors without borders, warriors that will appear wherever needed. They preserve the dignity of the oppressed.”

Khamenei stated that the funeral processions for Soleimani showed that the “Iranian nation loves symbols of resistance.” He added: “The Iranian nation showed it supports resistance. It does not support surrender. Some try to portray something else in the court of public opinion, they don’t act honestly. This is the nation, the nation supports steadfastness and resistance. The nation supports standing up to this clown [Donald Trump].”

Khamenei then said the shooting down of the Ukrainian airliner was a “regrettable and sour” accident. He added: “It burned our heart in the truest sense. Losing our dear youth, our good people, people who came here from other countries, was undoubtedly a sour accident.”

Khamenei added that “our enemy” was happy about the plane downing. He went on: “They felt they attained something they could use to question the Revolutionary Guards and the Islamic Republic.”

Khamenei further said about the shoot down: “I sincerely repeat again that I sympathize with the victims of this tragedy and share their grief. I thank the mothers and fathers and all those mourning that, even though their hearts are full of grief, they stood against the enemy’s plans and aims.”

Khamenei then discussed the JCPOA’s European parties triggering the deal’s dispute resolution mechanism, which could lead to a process that would reinstate UN sanctions on Iran. Khamenei said that “from day one I said I don’t trust them” and that these same countries “helped Saddam Hussein” during the Iran-Iraq War.

He added: “After one year, they showed that they are America’s lackey’s in the truest sense. These little governments are waiting to bring the Iranian nation to its knees. America couldn’t achieve this, you (the UK, France, and Germany) are too small to achieve this.”

Khamenei then said that Iran was “not afraid of negotiations.” He stated: “The only path for the Iranian nation is to strive to get stronger. We aren’t afraid of negotiations, but not from a place of weakness, but of strength. Thank God, we are strong and are getting stronger. Power is not only military power. Our economy has to get stronger. Our dependency on oil needs to end.”

Khamenei then said that a high turnout in the upcoming election would be the “most important sign of our strength.” Khamenei said that “in the election the presence of the people provides insurance for the country.” He added that the “enemy” wants to reduce turnout and “taint” the election.

Khamenei delivered the rest of his speech in Arabic and had specific comments on Iran-Iraq relations. He stated: “There have been many lopsided efforts to create conflict between the Iranian and Iraqi nations. Immense amounts of money has been spent. They have used irresponsible people in Iran and in Iraq to engage in satanic propaganda against each other.”

Khamenei stated that the “martyrdom” of Soleimani and PMU commander Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis “thwarted all these efforts.” He then said that Iran’s missile attack on U.S. bases in Iraq made the threat of war more “distant.” He added that the “aim of America is a civil war in Iraq and the partitioning of Iraq and the elimination of resistance forces.”

Back to Top



Statement on Deportation of Shahab Dehghani

Jamal Abdi, President of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), issued the following statement on the deportation of Mr. Mohammad Shahab Dehghani Hossein Abadi, an Iranian national who was partway through a degree at Northeastern University:

“It is a disgrace that nearly three years through President Trump’s implementation of a Muslim ban, Iranians are still being deported at airports despite holding a valid visa. This is supposed to be a nation of checks and balances, but instead we have an administration running roughshod over the courts and Congress with no transparency or accountability.

“Shahab’s deportation — in spite of a court order —and the Boston court’s refusal to order his return, are disconcerting. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol seems intent on targeting anyone with Iranian heritage and has provided little reassurance to suggest otherwise. Without the courts or Congress protecting the rule of law, communities like ours are looking down a dark hole, where our rights may be infringed without explanation or due process and our family and friends subject to harassment and deportation.

“Mr. Abadi’s deportation is one of a series of visa revocations of valid Iranian visa holders, all of whom went through an arduous visa vetting process only to be cruelly denied upon entry – after quitting jobs, buying expensive plane tickets and saying goodbye to friends and family. In late August of 2019, dozens of Iranian students experienced the same fate as Mr. Abadi and have since been banned from returning to the U.S. for 5 years, putting their lives on hold. CBP has yet to say a word as to why any of these students have been rejected, though we strongly suspect the administration’s vague social media vetting policy is to blame. 

“This level of outrageous behavior and discrimination is unfortunately become commonplace under the current administration. Congress should immediately pass legislation to rescind the Muslim Ban, including “The No Ban Act”, H.R.2214. Lawmakers, the media, the courts and civil society must double efforts to enforce accountability and demand answers or the situation will only get worse.”


2020 Marked by a Tumultuous Start for Human Rights in Iran

On January 14, Human Rights Watch released its annual summary of the state of human rights in Iran, reviewing Iran’s from brutal crackdowns on protests, arbitrary arrests, and execution; Iran’s continued discrimination based on religion, gender, and orientation; and the humanitarian impact of U.S. sanctions. Some issues raised in the report include:

  • The right to assemble, protest, and voice rightful grievances has long been repressed by Iranian authorities. However, under the weight of growing internal pressure from economic discontent and sanctions beginning in late 2019, Iranian authorities grew increasingly cruel in their crackdown on domestic dissent. 
  • This has resulted in an increase of arbitrary arrests of journalists, artists, activists, and foreign and dual nationals. Additionally, the judiciary has increasingly ignored due process and lacked transparency in dealing with such cases, and has doled out harsh sentences. 
  • The worst of these abuses came in November of 2019, after protests – sparked by a spike in gas prices – were met with brutal force. At least 300+ deaths have been reported, but may include many more as the government refuses to declare actual numbers. A staggering 7,000 people were reportedly arrested and the internet was shut down for nearly a week as Iranians were forcibly cut off from the outside world. 
  • Though the report notes some small victories for women, such as limited permission to attend soccer matches and an amendment to the nationality law that allows women to pass citizenship to their children, the legal status of women is still highly discriminatory. Such inequitable practices are also true for religious minorities, especially of the Bahai faith, and homosexuality continues to be criminalized.
  • The report also discusses the humanitarian impact of U.S. sanctions. Though legally exempt from sanctions, the report notes limited access to vital medicines and medical equipment due to banking restrictions.

As is evident in the report, 2019 was a bleak year for human rights and Iranians have suffered greatly under domestic and foreign pressures. Unfortunately for Iranians, the new year has been a devastating continuation of tragedy. The events of the past two weeks have rocked not only Iran, but also the globe, as people all across the world held their breath bracing for a war that seemed inevitable after the U.S. assassination of Iran’s General, Qassem Soleimani.

In their attempt at retaliation, Iranian authorities carried out an attack on U.S. airbases in Iraq. On the night of the attack, January 8th, Iranian defenses mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane, which was leaving Iranian airspace and carrying 176 civilians. The weight of this tragedy was compounded by authorities hiding the details of the crash for three days. More protests broke out after the state declared its error, as Iranians took the streets to grieve and shout their anger at incompetent officials culpable for this and other calamities. Again, protestors were met with unjust force. 

Those responsible for this appalling loss of life must be held to account. Iranian authorities must end their authoritarian practice of silencing rightful dissent and do justice by their citizens by adhering to their obligations under international human rights law. 

The 176 lives needlessly lost were a consequence not only of inept Iranian officials, but also a result of increased escalation and conflict between the United States and Iran.

As Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau stated: “I think if there were no tensions, if there was no escalation recently in the region, those Canadians [57 of crash victims] would be right now home with their families. This is something that happens when you have conflict and war, innocents bear the brunt of it and it is a reminder why all of us have to work so hard on de-escalation.”

Such tragedy is a reminder that the greatest human rights violation is war itself, which is why it is incumbent upon both Iran and the United States to end this cycle of violence and bellicose language in order to prevent further loss of innocent life and the unpredictable costs of war.

With MLK Day upon us we are reminded of his sage words so many years ago during the war in Vietnam: “A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, ‘This way of settling differences is not just…’ America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood…War is not the answer.” 

NIAC Letter Regarding Etsy’s U.S. Sanctions Compliance Policies and Discriminatory Treatment Towards Iranian Americans

Photo Credit: yasmeenabedi / Twitter

The National Iranian American Council has sent a letter to Etsy concerning its apparently discriminatory treatment of an American vendor selling “Persian dolls” on its website. These dolls appear to have been made in America with American materials by an American, and under no circumstances should have been flagged as a prohibited item. No sanctions apply to American-made items celebrating Persian cultural heritage or antiquity. Etsy’s knee-jerk or automated reaction that led to the prohibition of the dolls is deeply concerning and smacks of discrimination.

At this time, many Iranian Americans are concerned that rising geopolitical tensions are triggering a new wave of xenophobia against our community. NIAC urges Etsy to publicly detail the reasoning behind this discriminatory treatment, take action to verify that it will not continue it and issue an apology to the vendor. NIAC also stand ready to discuss with Etsy the sanctions on Iran and how the company can avoid similar discriminatory action in the future.

The text of the letter is below:

January 18, 2020


Etsy Legal Compliance Office
55 Washington Street, Suite 512
Brooklyn, New York 11201

Re: Letter Regarding Etsy’s U.S. Sanctions Compliance Policies and Discriminatory Treatment Towards Iranian Americans

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing on behalf of the National Iranian American Council (“NIAC”), the largest grassroots organization in the United States representing the interests of Iranian Americans, regarding Etsy’s decision to remove from its online store products made by U.S. persons in the United States solely due to the inclusion of the word “Persian” in the title of the product. While we understand that–as a U.S. company–Etsy must comply with all U.S. sanctions laws, Etsy must not implement these commitments in such a manner as to discriminate against users of Iranian descent or to render prohibitive all cultural items of or relating to Iran. We are deeply troubled by this incident and are concerned that–based on Etsy’s apparent sanctions compliance policies and procedures–other users of Iranian descent are likely to face similar discriminatory treatment from Etsy in the future. 

Recently, it has come to our attention that Etsy removed handmade dolls for sale on its online store because the items were described as “Persian dolls.” According to Etsy’s notice, Etsy removed the product because “Persian dolls” constituted a “prohibited item” under the company’s policies. This product, as NIAC understands it, was made by a user of Iranian descent in the United States using solely goods sourced from the United States. No U.S. sanctions laws or regulations appear to have been triggered by Etsy’s hosting of this item for sale on its online store. Etsy’s apparent compliance program has prohibited items from its online store that would raise no compliance issues under U.S. sanctions laws.

U.S. companies must narrowly tailor their U.S. sanctions compliance policies and procedures to the requirements of U.S. laws to ensure that these policies and procedures do not discriminate against and further burden affected communities, including the Iranian-American community. Identifying “Persian dolls” as a “prohibited item” pursuant to its internal sanctions policies and procedures does not qualify as a sanctions program narrowly tailored to the requirements of U.S. law. Such sanctions over-compliance has understandably caused much frustration and anger in our community, and actions such as Etsy’s raise persistent fears that the Iranian American community is the subject of discriminatory treatment. 

We trust that Etsy will review this matter and seek to mitigate the harm caused to any affected parties. We would like to speak further with representatives of the company regarding how they can engage in remediation to revise their sanctions program to ensure that it is strictly tailored to the requirements of U.S law and does not cause any undue impacts on Iranian Americans or other affected communities moving forward. We thank you for your consideration and look forward to your response. 


Jamal Abdi
President, National Iranian American Council

Letter of Solidarity Standing with NIAC

[Sign the open letter here]

January 17, 2020

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC), and its sister organization NIAC Action, are American civil-society organizations working on behalf of members of the Iranian-American community and the broader American public. At a time when our nation is bitterly divided, NIAC is an important voice in our public debate on issues of enormous consequence for all Americans — and particularly for Americans of Iranian heritage — including heightened tensions in the Middle East and the risk of war, policies like the Muslim travel ban and extreme vetting, the rise in domestic hate crimes, and the protection of civil liberties.

We are deeply disturbed by the letter from Senators Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz and Mike Braun insinuating that this Iranian-American organization has dual loyalties, is somehow less American than other organizations in this space, and should be subject to a Justice Department investigation. While these Senators may have profound differences in opinion with NIAC, particularly on the question of escalation and potential war with Iran, the Justice Department is not the forum to resolve those debates. These tactics have no place in our political process or our national discourse, and risk turning our Justice Department into a political tool to intimidate and silence voices that disagree with whichever administration is in power. We are concerned that everyone involved in contentious policy debates, regardless of political persuasion, will be at risk.

We are proud to stand with NIAC and commend its essential contribution to the public debate.


About Face: Veterans Against the War
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
American Friends Service Committee
Beyond the Bomb
Center for Constitutional Rights
Daily Kos
Defending Rights & Dissent
Demand Progress Education Fund
Foreign Policy for America
Freedom Forward
Global Zero
Granada Center for Human Rights
Historians for Peace and Democracy
Immigration Hub
Institute for Policy Studies
Irish International Immigrant Center
Japanese American Citizens League
Jewish Voice for Peace
Justice for Muslims Collective
JVP Action
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Montgomery County (MD) Civil Rights Coalition
MPower Change
Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC)
Muslim Voters of America
National Immigration Law Center (NILC)
Oil Change International
Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility
Peace Action
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Ploughshares Fund
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
Static Free Films, Inc.
The Avalan Institute for Applied Research
United We Dream
US Campaign for Palestinian Rights
Win Without War
Women’s Action for New Directions

Individuals – Organizations Included for Identification Purposes Only 
Gordon Adams, Professor Emeritus, School of International Service, American University
Edward Ahmed Mitchell, CAIR Georgia
Salam Almarayati, Muslim Public Affairs Council
Reza Aslan, Renowned Author and Professor
Andrew Bacevich, President, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
Dante Barry, Million Hoodies Movement for Justice
David Barsamian
Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, Bourse & Bazaar
Zahra Billoo, CAIR San Francisco Bay Area
Audrey Bomse, National Lawyers Guild
Salih Booker, Center for International Policy
Heather Booth
Yvette Borja, ACLU Arizona
Charles E. Butterworth, University of Maryland, Emeritus Professor
Abdul Cader Asmal
Manzoor Cheema, Project South
Juan Cole, University of Michigan
Holly Dagres
Kelsey Davenport, Arms Control Association
Hassan El-Tayyab, Friends Committee on National Legislation
David Emami, City Councilor, Happy Valley Oregon
Rahna Epting, Executive Director, MoveOn
Hadi Esfahani, Professor, University of Illinois
Prof. John L. Esposito, Georgetown University
Richard Falk, Princeton University
Farideh Farhi, Independent Scholar
Mateo Farzaneh, Northeastern Illinois University 
Jon Finer, Former Chief of Staff and Director of Policy Planning at the State Department
Dr. Eugene Fisher
Lara Friedman
Mark Gasiorowski, Tulane University
Prof. Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, Princeton University
Jeanette Gottlieb, Peace Corps Iran Association
Cyrus Habib, Lieutenant Governor of Washington State
Morton H. Halperin, Open Society Foundations
Amir Handjani, Truman National Security Project
William Hartung, Center for International Policy
Nader Hashemi, University of Denver
Jaylani Hussein, CAIR-MN
Deepa Iyer, Solidarity Is
Mitra Jalali, St. Paul City Council
Maryam Jamshidi, University of Florida, Levin College of Law
Robert Jervis, Columbia University
Persis Karim
Hoda Katebi
Tara Kaveh, Alliance San Diego
Bijan Khajehpour
Dr. Fazal Khan, University of Arizona
Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association*
Ahmad Kiarostami
Stephen Kinzer, Author, “All the Shah’s Men”
Paige Knappenberger, Climate Nexus
Lawrence Korb, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense
Daniel Larison, The American Conservative
George A. Lopez, Kroc Institute, Notre Dame
Firuzeh Mahmoudi, United for Iran
Robert Malley, Former Special Assistant to the President
Sarah Margon, Open Society Foundations
Edward Martin, Center for Interfaith Engagement, Eastern Mennonite University
John J. Mearsheimer, University of Chicago
Nicholas Miller, Dartmouth College
Ramin Montazeri
Melody Moezzi, Author, Attorney, Activist, & Professor
Bitta Mostofi, Public Servant & Advocate
Asieh Namdar, Journalist
Bruce D. Nestor, Former President of the National Lawyers Guild
Paul R. Pillar, Quincy Institute and Georgetown University
Mitchell Plitnick, ReThinking Foreign Policy 
Gobi Rahimi, Filmmaker 
Nasrin Rahimieh, University of California, Irvine
Ben Rhodes, Former Deputy National Security Advisor to President Barack Obama
Mahsa Rouhi, International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS)
Muhammad Sahimi, NIOC Chair in Petroleum Engineering and Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, USC
Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, Virginia Tech
Monique Salhab, Veterans For Peace
Susan Scott, National Lawyers Guild International Committee
Azadeh Shahshahani, Project South
Samer Shehata, University of Oklahoma
Annelle Sheline, The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
Debra Shushan, J Street
Nahid Siamdoust, Yale University
Arjun Singh Sethi, Georgetown University Law Center
Barbara Slavin
Nader Soltani
Lakshmi Sridaran, South Asian Americans Leading Together
Yasmine Taeb, Democratic National Committeewoman
John Tierney, Council for A Livable World
Jim Walsh, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Stephen Walt, Harvard University
Stephen Wertheim, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State
Dylan Williams, J Street
Carolyn Yale, Member of Peace Corps Iran Association
Stephen Young, Union of Concerned Scientists
Nahal Zamani, Center for Constitutional Rights



NIAC Receives Outpouring of Support After Outrageous “Dual Loyalty” Attack Leveled By Pro-War Senators

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, January 17, 2020
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 |

Washington, DC – Over 100 organizations, experts and former officials rallied to the defense of the National Iranian American Council and its sister organization, NIAC Action, after three extreme partisan Senate war hawks questioned the organization’s allegiances. NIAC is an American organization that for nearly two decades has been a leading voice in the effort to prevent war with Iran and to protect civil liberties of Iranian Americans. Most recently, NIAC has been at the forefront of efforts to get answers after over sixty Iranian Americans, including young children, were held at the U.S.-Canada border overnight for up to 11 hours and questioned about political beliefs amid heightened risks of war with Iran. 

On Wednesday, amid these dangerous tensions and rising fears among Iranian Americans about threats to their civil liberties here at home, Senators Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, and Mike Braun sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr urging for an investigation of NIAC for potentially acting as “foreign agents.” Organizations including Ploughshares Fund, VoteVets, Win Without War, and prominent experts and former officials like Iranian-American author Reza Aslan, former special assistant to President Obama Robert Malley, and Larry Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell signed onto a joint letter condemning this baseless attack. NIAC’s initial statement regarding the Cotton, Cruz, Braun letter, is available here.

The full joint solidarity statement is below and can also be found here.

January 17, 2020

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC), and its sister organization NIAC Action, are American civil-society organizations working on behalf of members of the Iranian-American community and the broader American public. At a time when our nation is bitterly divided, NIAC is an important voice in our public debate on issues of enormous consequence for all Americans — and particularly for Americans of Iranian heritage — including heightened tensions in the Middle East and the risk of war, policies like the Muslim travel ban and extreme vetting, the rise in domestic hate crimes, and the protection of civil liberties.
That is why we are deeply disturbed by the letter from Senators Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz and Mike Braun insinuating that this Iranian-American organization has dual loyalties, is somehow less American than other organizations in this space, and should be subject to a Justice Department investigation. While these Senators may have profound differences in opinion with NIAC, particularly on the question of escalation and potential war with Iran, the Justice Department is not the forum to resolve those debates. Such McCarthyite tactics have no place in our political process or our national discourse, and risk turning our Justice Department into a political tool to intimidate and silence voices that disagree with whichever administration is in power. The fact that three United States Senators would engage in such meritless, slanderous, and dangerous practices is deeply disturbing. We are concerned that this will not stop with their attack on NIAC and that everyone involved in contentious policy debates, regardless of political persuasion, will be at risk if such tactics succeed. We strongly urge that the three Senators retract their letter and apologize.
We are proud to stand with NIAC and fundamentally reject the letter from Senators Cotton, Cruz and Braun that represents an attack on our democracy.
Lawrence B. Wilkerson
Former chief of staff to Secretary of State
Dylan Williams​​​​​​​
J Street
Stephen Walt​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
Harvard University
Paul R. Pillar​​​​​​​
Quincy Institute and Georgetown University
Djavad Salehi-Isfahani​​​​​​​
Virginia Tech
Juan Cole​​​​​​​
University of Michigan
Nader Hashemi​​​​​​​
University of Denver
John Tierney​​​​​​​
Council for A Livable World
John J. Mearsheimer​​​​​​​
University of Chicago
Lawrence Korb​​​​​​​
Former Assistant Secretary of Defence
Andrew Bacevich​​​​​​​
President, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
Jon Finer​​​​​​​
Former Chief of Staff and Director of Policy Planning at the State Department
Morton H. Halperin​​​​​​​
Open Society Foundations

See the full list of signatories here.

NIAC Responds to Baseless Accusations by Senators Cotton, Cruz, and Braun

In response to a letter sent by Senators Tom Cotton (R-AK), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Mike Braun (R-IN) to the Department of Justice baselessly urging an investigation into NIAC and NIAC Action, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) issued the following statement:

“At NIAC, we are proud of the work we do for our community. We will never stop working to advance peace and diplomacy or fighting for equitable immigration policies and the civil rights of all Americans. Unfortunately, in the current political climate, immigrant organizations and communities like ours are increasingly under attack by agenda-driven groups and individuals who often resort to baseless smears to try to discredit those who disagree with them.

“The slanderous accusations from Senators Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, and Mike Braun have zero merit. It is yet another sign that warhawks are seeking to intimidate pro-peace voices, starting with Iranian Americans, from halting the push toward war, which Cotton and Cruz have long championed. We have already seen the coordinated efforts, such as the U.S. government funded “IranDisinfo” project that slandered groups like Human Rights Watch, as well as Iranian-American journalists, analysts, academics, and civil society organizations like ours who dared speak out against the Trump Administration’s Iran policies. This is the latest attempt to silence NIAC and other pro-peace Iranian Americans from having a voice in this debate that impacts us and our community. We will not let that happen.

“NIAC and NIAC Action are independent American organizations. We do not receive money from any government, are not agents of any government, and take great pride in our transparency. We are funded by reputable U.S. foundations, ordinary Iranian Americans, and American allies who support peace and civil rights. We routinely condemn the Iranian government for its gross violations of its international human rights obligations, including amid the November crackdown and this past weekend over protests following the government’s downing of a civilian aircraft.

“The Senators’ accusations of dual loyalty targeting our organization, particularly amid heightened risks of war, are disgusting and dangerous. We are just a few days removed from Iranian Americans being detained for questioning at U.S. ports of entry based on their national heritage. These incidents have only compounded an atmosphere of xenophobia, which have made Americans of all backgrounds feel vulnerable in their own country, and have no place within the civil discourse of the United States. In this period of heightened fears and trauma, it is shameful these Senators choose to slander NIAC and NIAC Action as we stand up for the Iranian-American community and work to protect our community’s civil liberties.

“We strongly dispute the mischaracterization of our work by the Senators in their hastily drafted letter. Both Senators Cotton and Cruz have made clear that they favor war with Iran over diplomatic solutions–and they have done nothing to halt this administration from banning our friends and family from Iran beginning in his first week in office. While we know little of Senator Braun, his joining in this McCarthyite targeting of an Iranian-American civil rights organization betrays that he knows little of our community and less about basic democratic liberties.

“It is unfortunate and telling that these warmongers have put NIAC in their crosshairs. Our organization has for years led the charge against war, reflecting the anti-war position of the vast majority of the Iranian-American community. Sens. Cotton, Cruz, and Braun recognize us as a threat to their plans and seek to slander us into silence. They will not succeed. 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.” 

NIAC Statement on European Powers Triggering JCPOA Dispute Resolution Mechanism

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, January 14, 2020
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 |

In response to European powers triggering a dispute resolution mechanism over Iran halting compliance with nuclear limits following President Trump’s violation and withdrawal from the deal, Ryan Costello, Policy Director for the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), issued the following statement:

“Europe’s complete fecklessness in the face of Donald Trump’s pressure is once again on full display. Unlike the Trump administration that has orchestrated this nuclear crisis, Europe wants to keep the Iran deal alive and has exerted diplomatic energy toward that end, with little to show for it. However, this step is likely to be viewed in Iran and much of the rest of the world as a cave to the Trump administration’s maximum pressure after Europe has continually failed to deliver promised sanctions relief to Iran. This will further reduce Iranian appetite for accommodation with the West and adherence to the Nonproliferation Treaty. Moreover, hawks in the U.S. are likely to seize the dispute resolution mechanism to try to collapse the agreement on faulty legal grounds, even if that is not the intent of European powers.

“All powers need to tread cautiously, lest they risk playing into those intent on collapsing the agreement and all diplomatic pathways with Iran. Keeping the deal alive, and with it a diplomatic opening to resolve broader concerns with Iran, is in the national interest of the United States, Europe and Iran. This shouldn’t change as a result of Europe’s triggering of the dispute resolution mechanism, which risks doing more harm than good. The alternative scenario of a collapsed deal will rapidly escalate already high tensions and make a conflict increasingly inevitable. Europe will pay a high price for any increase in instability in the Middle East and renewed refugee flows.”

NIAC Statement on Repression of Iranian Protests

WASHINGTON DC – In response to reports that Iranian protests, after shooting down a Ukrainian International Airlines passenger plane last week, are being repressed by authorities, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) issued the following statement:

“The National Iranian American Council condemns the Iranian government’s continued use of force against protesters over the weekend, and urges it to take immediate action to uphold its international human rights obligations.

“Many Iranians are rightfully incensed that their government shot down a civilian airliner and killed 176 innocent people, which was compounded by three days of lies to try to cover up the armed forces’ culpability in the shoot down.

“The Iranian people, like everyone, have the right to protest their government without fear of being targeted with lethal force. We reiterate our condemnations of the Iranian government’s ongoing human rights abuses and urge security forces to halt all abuses against protesters and prisoners of conscience.”

NIAC Statement on Iran’s Accidental Downing of Passenger Plane

WASHINGTON DC – In response to reports that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) had acknowledged that it was responsible for accidentally shooting down a Ukrainian International Airlines passenger plane this week, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) issued the following statement:

“Our hearts are with the families and friends still grieving over their lost loved ones. This has been a tremendous loss for Iran, the Iranian diaspora and all who lost loved ones on the flight.

“Today we learned this was an entirely avoidable and irresponsible error, which has already prompted large protests in Iran. It was also brought on by avoidable tensions between the U.S. and Iran that threatened to spill over into full-blown war. It underscores that when tensions rise, it is unfortunately all too common for mistakes to be made that lead to disastrous consequences. We urge the U.S. and Iranian governments to continue to deescalate, open up diplomatic channels and ensure there is no further loss of life from the reckless rush to the brink of war.”

Digital Organizer

Washington, DC
Full Time, Exempt

The Digital Organizer is responsible for leading and managing NIAC’s digital advocacy and assisting with communications including member emails, online actions, website, social media, videos, graphics, and other online and printed materials. The Digital Organizer will also responsible for managing the digital engagement of volunteers. The Digital Organizer ensures that all digital content is created and executed in line with the organizations’ brand. They work with the National Organizing Director and senior leadership to devise and implement NIAC’s overarching digital advocacy strategy. The Digital Organizer reports to the Organizing Director and will work very closely with all staff and directors. Specific responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the following:

Visibility and Brand

  • Support the Communications Director in strengthening NIAC’s brand and visibility, while also increasing reach and building membership.
  • Help manage NIAC’s web and social media presence, including the website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Medium accounts.
  • Assist in designing collateral materials for various departments (e.g. event flyers, email design, event invitations, etc.)
  • Ensure that all digital materials adhere to NIAC’s brand and image and fits into the organization’s overarching communications and brand strategy.

Digital Content

  • Design, create, and send out NIAC’s bi-weekly newsletter and Iran Unfiltered digest.
  • Design and coordinate emails in consultation with the appropriate department using EveryAction.
  • Publish and disseminate NIAC’s content on the website and social media accounts, in coordination with the Communications Department, utilizing best practices to maximize distribution, reach, and engagement.

Digital Engagement & Outreach

  • Track, analyze, and report on the effectiveness of NIAC’s online engagement campaigns, with the aim of boosting engagement and conversions, helping lead digital fundraising campaigns, and optimizing lead generation
  • Devise and execute digital and social media strategies for campaigns and organizational events, including fundraisers, advocacy efforts, social events, and conferences
  • Coordinate volunteers to execute digital advocacy campaigns. This includes social media, Hustle text, and call campaigns
  • Manage an online listserv of volunteers

General Support

  • Oversee organizing interns
  • Providing general digital communications support to all Directors as needed

Desired Experience:

  • Four plus years of digital communications and marketing experience.
  • Undergraduate degree. Marketing, communications, English, journalism, political science, international relations, or a related field preferred.
  • Experience with HTML, Google Analytics, Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, and WordPress
  • Familiarity with CRM platforms like EveryAction preferred.
  • Experience with graphic design and multimedia production, including video, strongly preferred.
  • Experience with digital advocacy campaigns preferred
  • Familiarity with NIAC’s mission, the political landscape, and the Iranian-American community preferred
  • Persian language knowledge a plus

Qualities that will thrive in this position:

  • Strong self-starter, entrepreneurial, creative; eager to present new, bold ideas and solutions
  • Willing to do what it takes to get a high quality, polished project done; low ego, high focus on quality, open to honest feedback and collaboration
  • Hard worker, can do flexible hours and manage his/her time independently; understands that changing the nature of U.S-Iran relations and strengthening Iranian Americans’ voice doesn’t always happen between 9 and 5
  • Strong attention to detail, while being able to think strategically and understand the larger vision
  • Works effectively independently and in a team environment
  • Self-motivated, enthusiastic, and creative
  • Ability to manage multiple daily deadlines and multiple assignments
  • Excellent communication and presentation skills
  • Ability to lead, influence, and work across departments 

To Apply: Interested candidates should send a cover letter with salary requirements and resume to Nicole Ataei at with the subject line “Digital Organizer.”

Salary & Benefits
Salary is commensurate with experience. Fortune 100-style benefits include:

  • Generous health, dental, vision, long-term disability, and life insurance plans
  • 15 days of annual paid leave and 12 paid holidays
  • 401k with 2% company match
  • Additional benefits through TotalSource benefits partner include: training opportunities, corporate discounts, and Employee Assistance Program

About NIAC
The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the voice of Iranian Americans and promoting greater understanding between the American and Iranian people. We accomplish our mission through expert research and analysis, civic and policy education, and community building.

We are the 501(c)3 sister organization of NIAC Action, the grassroots, civic action organization committed to building political power for the Iranian-American community to advance peace and diplomacy with Iran, secure equitable immigration policies, and protect the civil rights of all Americans.