NIAC Condemns Horrific Attacks on Christchurch Mosques

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, March 15, 2019
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

 

WASHINGTON, DC — NIAC President Jamal Abdi issued the following statement after the Islamophobia-driven attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand:

“We are shocked and outraged by the unconscionable terrorist attacks on the al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch yesterday, which claimed the lives of 49 and injured dozens more. We relay our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of those taken in this tragedy, and mourn alongside the Muslim community and all those who are shocked by this inhumane act of evil.

“This attack is yet another reminder that fanning the flames of Islamophobia, white nationalism, and anti-Muslim sentiment is profoundly dangerous. Unfortunately, the U.S. now has a President that is a global leader in spreading such bigotry and who has failed on numerous occasions to halt his hateful rhetoric and the policies like his ongoing Muslim Ban that are inspired by it. We reiterate our call for Donald Trump to make a clean break from his white nationalist and Islamophobic roots and condemn in the strongest possible terms the vile acts of terror that spring from such hatred.”

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Appointment of Ebrahim Raisi to Head Iran’s Judiciary Signals Resurgence of Hardline Elements

For Immediate Release: March 7, 2019
Contact: Mana Mostatabi | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

Washington, D.C.—Today, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a decree appointing hardline cleric, Ebrahim Raisi, as head of the country’s Judiciary.

In response to the appointment, Mana Mostatabi, Communications Director at the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), noted:

The appointment of Ebrahim Raisi today to head Iran’s Judiciary—a tremendously powerful institution that has overseen countless miscarriages of justice—is deeply concerning. Raisi, a hardliner who was soundly defeated by Hassan Rouhani in Iran’s 2017 presidential elections, brings a shameful track record to the Judiciary—including his involvement in the committee that oversaw the executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.

In a fair and just system, the appointment of such an individual to head the Judiciary would be impossible. Unfortunately, the Judiciary is among Iran’s unelected institutions that are not accountable to Iran’s civil government and that have long ensured that Iran does not abide by its international human rights obligations.

Raisi’s selection as Judiciary head is yet another grim sign that the same hardliners who faced significant setbacks after the JCPOA was successfully negotiated with Iran are now resurgent following Trump’s abrogation of the nuclear deal and reimposition of sanctions. Ultimately, it is the Iranian people who endure the impacts of any U.S. pressure policies—not the hardline forces responsible for human and civil rights abuses.

In the wake of Raisi’s appointment, NIAC reiterates its call for Iran to fully abide by its international human rights obligations and to release all prisoners of conscience unjustly detained.

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NIAC Statement on Netanyahu’s “Combating Iran” Remarks

For Immediate Release: February 13, 2019
Contact: Mana Mostatabi | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

Washington, D.C. – The National Iranian American Council issued the following statement after the Israeli Prime Minister’s office supposedly mistranslated Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks in Hebrew and indicated that Arab nations and Israel are working to advance “the common interest of war with Iran:”

“A war with Iran is fundamentally at odds with the security interests of the United States, Israel, the people of Iran, and the entire Middle East. Whether the Prime Minister’s words were intentionally muddled or not, his provocative message needs no interpretation. It is clear through the Prime Minister’s long-standing signaling that his intention is to build support for a confrontation with Iran.

“The Prime Minister’s efforts to stoke a war with Iran were successfully halted by the carefully calculated, diplomacy-driven approach of the Obama Administration. Unfortunately, those at the helm of U.S. leadership today – some of whom have themselves openly called for war with Iran – are unlikely to tell Netanyahu to stand down.

“There is no doubt that the Trump Administration eagerly welcomes such provocations as yet another spoke in the campaign to pressure and punish our allies for constructively engaging with Iran, and to misuse resources on efforts like the anti-Iran summit unfolding in Warsaw this week. With the summit largely spurned by our Western European allies, the administration was forced to spin the event from an Iran-centric gathering to one focused on broader Middle East peace and security issues.

“Just as there is little to misinterpret with regard to the Prime Minister’s words, there is nothing subtle about the true intent of the Warsaw summit, and the guest list proves it. Gathered are those most invested in seeing a confrontation with Iran: Gulf autocrats and the Israeli Prime Minister.

“Like many, we do, and continue to, strongly condemn Iranian officials who have verbally threatened Israel. We would expect that all those who rush to condemn Iran for its provocative rhetoric against Israel to similarly rebuke the Prime Minister for doing the same in reverse.

The global community must consistently call out parties seeking to sow instability, and this includes by being vigilant about the very real machinations towards war that are being undertaken.”

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MEDIA AVAILABILITY: Experts Available to Discuss U.S.-Led Warsaw Summit on Iran

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Mana Mostatabi – 202.386.6319, mmostatabi@niacouncil.org 
Jamal Abdi, President – 202.386.6408, jabdi@niacouncil.org
Ryan Costello, Policy Director – 202.386.6319, rcostello@niacouncil.org  
Dr. Assal Rad, Policy Analyst – 949.294.6652, arad@niacouncil.org 
Sina Toossi, Research Associate – 217.552.3950, stoossi@niacouncil.org

Washington, D.C. – Experts from the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) will be available to media to offer analysis of the joint U.S.-Poland summit, billed as a conference focused on Iran as well as broader peace and security issues in the Middle East.

The U.S.-proposed Warsaw Summit was initially conceived of as an arena for pressuring Iran. However, the U.S. broadened the scope of the meeting to encompass all of the Middle East after European allies raised concerns over the intention of the summit, and after it became clear that an Iran-focused conference would only serve to highlight the growing rift between the U.S. and Western Europe.

The Warsaw Summit will take place on February 13-14, 2019.

NIAC analysts available in Washington, DC and Southern California:

Jamal Abdi is President of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and the Executive Director of NIAC Action. He leads NIAC’s advocacy and education on civil rights and immigration issues, as well as diplomacy with Iran. He formerly served as Policy Advisor on foreign affairs, immigration, and defense issues in the U.S. Congress. Abdi has written for The New York Times, CNN, Foreign Policy, and blogs at The Huffington Post.  He is a frequent guest contributor in print, radio, and television, including appearances on Al Jazeera, NPR, and BBC News. Follow Jamal on Twitter: @jabdi

Ryan Costello joined NIAC in April 2013 as a Policy Fellow and now serves as Policy Director. In this role, Ryan monitors legislation, conducts research and writing, and coordinates advocacy efforts on civil rights and U.S.-Iran policy. Ryan previously served as a Program Associate at the Connect U.S. Fund, where he focused on nuclear non-proliferation policy. He has published in American Foreign Policy Interests, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, CNN GPS, Foreign Policy, The Hill, Huffington Post and Roll Call. Ryan graduated from American University’s School of International Service with a Master of Arts in U.S. Foreign Policy, and from Ursinus College where he majored in history and international relations. Follow Ryan on Twitter: @RN_Costello

Mana Mostatabi joined NIAC in January 2019 as Communications Director. Over the last decade, Mana has worked in policy and communications roles at a number of organizations focused on everything from human rights in the Middle East to nuclear non-proliferation policy as related to Iran. She graduated from Georgetown University in 2017 with a Masters of Science in Foreign Service, with a concentration in Global Politics and Security. Mana also served as the Executive Editor of the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs. She earned a Bachelors of Arts from the University of California, Santa Barbara in Literature and Professional Editing & Writing. Follow Mana on Twitter: @mostlymana

Dr. Assal Rad graduated with a PhD in Middle Eastern History from the University of California, Irvine in 2018. Her PhD research focused on Modern Iran, with an emphasis on national identity formation and identity in post-revolutionary Iran. Assal works with the policy team on research and writing related to Iran policy issues and U.S.-Iran relations. Assal joined the National Iranian American Council as a Policy Analyst and Regional Organizer for the Western U.S. in January 2019. After working with NIAC in California as a volunteer on election and voting campaigns in 2018, Assal joined the team in order to further this work and embolden the voices of Iranian Americans. In this role, Assal works to organize Iranian Americans around issues that affect the community. Follow Assal on Twitter: @AssalRad

Sina Toossi joined the National Iranian American Council as a Research Associate in July 2018. Sina conducts research and writing on U.S.-Iran relations, Iranian politics, and Middle East policy issues. Previously, he was a research specialist at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, where he focused on nuclear and security policy issues related to the Middle East. Sina has been published in Newsweek, The National Interest, The Huffington Post, The Washington Quarterly, and more. He holds an MA in international affairs from American University’s School of International Service. He completed his bachelor’s degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he double majored in economics and political science. Follow Sina on Twitter: @SinaToossi

Recent NIAC publications and media appearances:

About NIAC
The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) is a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the interests of the Iranian-American community. NIAC’s mission is focused on promoting an active and engaged Iranian-American community, supporting aspirations for human rights and democracy in Iran, opposing war between the US and Iran, and celebrating our community’s deep cultural heritage. NIAC accomplishes its mission by supplying the resources, knowledge and tools to enable greater civic participation by Iranian Americans and informed decision-making by policymakers.

For more information, please visit www.niacouncil.org.

Important Update on Green Card Legislation

A new version of the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 (H.R. 1044 — previously known as H.R. 392) has been introduced by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Ken Buck (R-CO) in the House of Representatives and Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Mike Lee (R-UT) in the Senate.

It is largely identical to past versions in that it will remove the per-country limit on employment-based permanent residency, which would add significant wait time to individuals from smaller countries like Iran, while benefiting individuals from larger countries like India and China. In the 115th Congress, the legislation was added to the House homeland security appropriation before NIAC Action, the Iranian-American community, and Iranian nationals across the country rallied against it. Particularly given the combination of the Muslim Ban and the community’s reliance on single-entry visas, many were strongly concerned that H.R. 392 would have a hugely negative impact on Iranian nationals in the United States.

We continue to have strong concerns about the impacts of this proposal and are committed to ensuring that the visa and green card process is equitable for Iranians and will advocate accordingly. However, our collective advocacy, meetings, and calls so far have helped to secure one significant exception in the language of the new bill. Under the new language, if you have already filed a petition for employment-based permanent residency that has been approved, the bill would no longer add to your wait time.

What this means: If someone’s petition for an EB-1/2/3/4/5 visa is approved prior to Sep. 30, 2019 then they wouldn’t have to wait for the visa any longer than they do currently if the bill passes.

We recognize that while this change may lessen the impact of the bill’s passage on individuals over the near-term, many of our longer-term concerns regarding the bill’s impact on Iranian nationals’ path to a green card remain. Please take a moment to share your thoughts on this change and what impact it will have on you to inform our forthcoming discussions with legislators and their staff.

NIAC Sends Letter to imo on Blockage of Iranian Users

We heard from members of the Iranian-American community that they had lost access to contacting their friends and loved ones over the imo communication platform. We sent a letter investigating the blockage of communication between Iranian and American users and seeking clarity on the decision. See the full letter below:

IMO Letter

Iranian-American Group Asks for Clarification of U.S. Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, an American Citizen and Iran-Based Journalist

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, January 17, 2019
CONTACT: Brett Abrams | brett@unbendablemedia.com

Statement from Jamal Abdi, President of the National Iranian American Council, on the detention of American citizen Marzieh Hashemi, an Iran-based correspondent for Press TV at St. Louis’ Lambert International Airport:

“The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on U.S. authorities to clarify the situation regarding the detention in the U.S. of American citizen Marzieh Hashemi, an Iran-based correspondent for Press TV. Ms. Hashemi was reportedly travelling to the U.S. to visit an ill relative and was detained at St. Louis Lambert International Airport on Sunday for unspecified reasons. She has since complained of mistreatment while in custody, telling her children that authorities had denied her food in line with her Islamic beliefs and removed her headscarf.

“NIAC is concerned by reports of mistreatment and reiterates that all nations must observe international law with regard to such detentions. Ms. Hashemi’s status as a journalist for an Iranian outlet cannot prevent her from access to the same legal rights afforded to every U.S. person.

“NIAC has consistently condemned the Iranian government’s shameful track record of politically motivated detentions – including arbitrarily arresting dual citizens, holding them on spurious charges, subjecting them to cruel conditions, and using them as bargaining chips in negotiations. Such practices are inhumane, illegal, and often in the service of agendas that seek to preserve U.S.-Iran hostility. It is absolutely critical that the U.S. government not follow suit and instead observe the core values of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

“It is important that the U.S. government provide answers regarding Ms. Hashemi’s situation and address reports of mistreatment. The longer Ms. Hashemi is held without publicly available charges and as allegations of mistreatment persist, the more her case serves to damage U.S. credibility and exacerbate U.S.-Iran tensions at a dangerous time.”

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NIAC Statement on Bolton Seeking War with Iran

Jamal Abdi, President of the National Iranian American Council, issued the following statement on reports that John Bolton asked the Pentagon for options to attack Iran in September, rattling officials:

“John Bolton and fellow Iran hawks believe they have two years left to collapse the Iran nuclear deal and trigger a disastrous war that the American people want no part of. We know that Bolton and other administration officials preferred an Iran war to negotiations prior to serving Trump. Now there is confirmation that they are still seeking out opportunities to fulfill their war agenda.

“This administration takes an expansive view of war authorities and is leaning into confrontation with Iran at a time when there are numerous tripwires for conflict across the region. It is imperative that this Congress investigate Bolton’s request for war options and pass legislation placing additional legal and political constraints on the administration’s ability to start a new war of choice with Iran that could haunt America and the region for generations.”

Expert Reacts to Sec. Pompeo’s Speech in Cairo on America’s Middle East Policies

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, January 10, 2019
CONTACT: Yasmina Dardari | yasmina@unbendablemedia.com

Jamal Abdi, President of the National Iranian American Council, issued the following statement after Secretary Pompeo’s speech in Cairo on America’s Middle East policies:

“Secretary Pompeo’s speech failed to outline a coherent strategic logic for the Trump administration’s Middle East policy. If Secretary Pompeo wants regional stability, human rights, and an end to U.S. military adventures and endless wars, he would press his boss to return to the Iran deal, pursue and facilitate good-faith diplomacy among all stakeholders, and honor our international agreements.

“Iran’s government engages in the unconscionable repression of its people and violates its international human rights commitments. Unfortunately, legitimate criticism of the Iranian government’s abuses and support for the Iranian people are undermined by this administration’s hypocrisy – from failing to uphold its own international commitments under the nuclear deal, to shielding the Saudi government from accountability for its killing of Jamal Khashoggi, to banning and sanctioning ordinary Iranians.

“A prudent alternative U.S. policy to the region must be predicated on using diplomacy as the preferred method of advancing U.S. interests, acting consistently on human rights, and ceasing our blank-check support for regional autocrats. A diplomacy-driven U.S. Middle East policy would not turn its back on regional people suffering under the yoke of strongmen or monarchs and would build on the successful diplomatic playbook of the Iran nuclear deal.

“If the administration continues on its current path of reflexively backing despotic regional regimes, simplistically blaming Iran as the source of all regional ills, and jeopardizing U.S. relations with European states seeking to preserve the nuclear accord, it will succeed at little other than fueling instability.”

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The National Iranian American Council (www.niacouncil.org) 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.

An Update on Slack

We thank Slack for working to restore service to those erroneously cut off and for apologizing for their mistake. User access and data must be restored and we hope that Slack will look closely at whether such compliance efforts were necessary in the first place.

While we acknowledge their explanation that users we’re not barred based on ethnicity or national origin, the fact is that, time and time again, the over-enforcement of Iran sanctions manifests itself in actions that discriminate against Iranians and Iranian Americans.

Companies must not err on the side of discrimination.

Unfortunately, Slack and many other companies have been forced to try to comply with a web of sanctions that are neither narrowly crafted nor clear in their targets. The impact of such a policy cannot be narrowly confined within Iran’s borders – spillover effects have and will continue as long as it is in place.

Critically, it makes zero sense for a communication program like Slack to be barred from Iranians in the first place – the Trump administration must take a look at its sanctions and determine how to ensure they do not harm ordinary Iranians both outside and inside Iran’s borders.