Demonstrators spell out "# No Muslim Ban" during the "Boston Protest Against Muslim Ban and Anti-Immigration Orders" to protest U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order travel ban in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. January 29, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

NIAC Outraged By Revelation of Non-Existent Waiver Process Under Muslim Ban

Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council is appalled by the revelation that, despite the Trump Administration’s claims that there is a “waiver” process to ensure his Muslim ban does not target family members of Americans, only two such waivers had been issued by Feb. 15 – out of 8,406 visa applications from “banned” countries. NIAC applauds the efforts of Senators Jeff Flake and Chris Van Hollen, who uncovered this information as part of an inquiry to the State Department.

“This would be laughable if it didn’t impact so many families in the U.S. and around the world,” said NIAC Vice President for Policy Jamal Abdi. “Trump is carrying out his Muslim ban with zero Congressional oversight and the failure of his so-called ‘waiver’ process is likely just the tip of the iceberg.”

Following several court orders blocking previous versions of the Muslim ban, the Trump administration instituted an indefinite ban in October. To mollify critics – and address an decision from the Supreme Court that the administration could not bar family members of Americans and other applicants with “bona fide” relations in the U.S. – President Trump issued Proclamation 9645. The updated ban indicates that a waiver can be granted to visa applicants from targeted countries if certain criteria are met – and even referenced the entry of family members as one example of when a waiver could be issued.

As indicated in the State Department response, the decision to issue waivers is left up to the discretion of individual consular officers. According to the State Department letter, out of more than 6,000 applicants whose applications were not refused for issues unrelated to the Proclamation, only 2 were ultimately approved for a waiver as of February 15. The State Department now says that 100 waivers have since been issued – meaning still less than one tenth of one percent of applicants have received the waivers.

“The Trump administration has not won a single court decision on the merits of its ban, yet the policy has been allowed to continue in large part because Congress has failed to vote on the ban or conduct oversight over its implementation,” said Abdi. “If Congress lacks the political will to repeal the ban, the least they can do is build on the efforts of Senators Flake and Van Hollen to conduct serious oversight to ensure there aren’t even more egregious abuses.”

IAAB v. Trump Muslim Ban Plaintiffs File Petition with the United States Supreme Court

Washington, DC – On Friday, the plaintiffs in Iranian Alliances Across Borders (IAAB) v. Trump joined plaintiffs in two other cases in filing a petition for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. The parties have asked the Court to review their cases and are seeking an expedited briefing schedule so that the cases may be heard along with Hawaii v. Trump, another challenge to President Trump’s Muslim ban, that is set for argument on April 25, 2018.

On February 15, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in IAAB, proclaiming that Muslim Ban 3.0 is “unconstitutionally tainted with animus towards Islam.”  Since the Supreme Court is reviewing the Hawaii case this term, the IAAB plaintiffs have asked for review so that the compelling issues raised by their case, including how the plaintiffs have been affected by the ban, will be presented to the Court.

IAAB v. Trump was the first major lawsuit brought against President Trump’s Muslim ban 3.0. The plaintiffs in this action are Iranian Alliances Across Borders, an Iranian-American diaspora community organization, and six individual plaintiffs, all of whom are United States citizens or lawful permanent residents with Iranian relatives or spouses who will be blocked from coming to the United States.  The plaintiffs in IAAB v. Trump are represented by Muslim Advocates, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Covington & Burling LLP, and the lawsuit was prepared in consultation with the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).

The National Iranian American Council is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the voice of Iranian Americans and promoting greater understanding between the American and Iranian people.

Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization that works on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths.

Iranian Alliances Across Borders is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan organization founded in 2003. IAAB addresses issues of the Iranian diaspora by facilitating community building, developing ways to better understand what it means to be part of a diaspora community, and empowering members of the Iranian diaspora community to enhance connections with their new communities as well as maintain connections with their root community.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.


NIAC Welcomes FATF Decision to Continue Suspension of Penalties on Iran

Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council issued the following statement regarding today’s decision by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to continue the suspension of counter-measures against Iran:

FATF made the right decision by recognizing the progress that Iran has made to reform its banking laws, while ensuring that Iran fulfills the terms of its Action Plan in order to receive the full benefit of being removed from the FATF “blacklist”. By showing itself unwilling to give in to pressure from the Trump administration and outside advocacy groups like United Against Nuclear Iran, which were pushing for the re-imposition of counter-measures against Iran, FATF smartly avoided politicization of its work and protected its integrity as a technical body assessing countries’ anti-money laundering and terrorist financing laws.

The Financial Action Task Force is an inter-governmental body that sets and promotes standards for combating money laundering and terrorist financing. FATF engages in a technical assessment of countries’ anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism laws and provides assistance to countries seeking to reform their laws in compliance with international standards.

Iran has been identified on FATF’s “blacklist” since 2008 for persistent AML/CFT (Anti-Money Laundering/Combatting the Financing of Terrorism) deficiencies. Following the nuclear accord, Iran agreed in June 2016 to an Action Plan to undertake domestic reforms to its AML/CFT laws with technical assistance provided by FATF. In response to this commitment, FATF suspended its call for counter-measures against Iran for a period of 12 months.

Iran has made significant progress meeting its Action Plan, including by passing new laws relating to money laundering.However, Iran still has work to do in reforming its terrorist financing laws. FATF’s decision to renew the suspension of counter-measures recognizes the progress that Iran has made thus far, while ensuring that Iran take the final steps to reform its AML/CFT laws before it receives the benefit of removal from FATF’s “blacklist.” Iran’s incentives to undertake serious reform of its banking laws include the potential for broader access to the global financial system, which has been denied Iran despite the lifting of U.S. and UN sanctions pursuant to the nuclear agreement. If Iran wants broader re-integration in the global financial system, then it must take the final steps to meet the terms of its Action Plan with FATF and reform its banking laws consistent with the recognized international standards. These steps are moving forward, yet the Trump administration and its political allies seem more interested in scuttling that progress due to ideological animus towards Iran rather than seeing an actual interest of the U.S. and international community realized.

The Trump administration appears to have pushed hard on FATF member-states to reject the technical assessment of the agency as to Iran’s progress and re-impose counter-measures against Iran. As is true of the nuclear agreement, the Trump administration’s ideological position towards Iran renders it unable to pursue – and often causes it work directly against – U.S. national security interests. In the case of the nuclear agreement, the Trump administration has antagonized allies and jeopardized the restrictions and strict inspections that are in place on Iran’s nuclear program. In the case of FATF, the Trump administration threatens to undermine the progress that Iran is making consistent with the FATF Action Plan to improve the transparency and integrity of its financial sector. The Trump administration showed its isolation once again by seeking to punish Iran through the FATF, despite the fact that the FATF and its other member-states recognize the progress Iran had made to reform its banking laws.

To kill the Iran nuclear deal, the Trump administration has shown itself willing to stake the reputation of international bodies, including the Financial Action Task Force and the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Trump administration is playing a dangerous game with the integrity of global and multilateral institutions. Thankfully, the FATF was able to resist the Trump administration’s machinations this time around.

NIAC Calls for Investigation into Death of Canadian-Iranian Academic

Contact: Trita Parsi
Phone: (202) 386-6325

The National Iranian American Council released the following statement after Iranian authorities claimed Iranian-Canadian academic and environmentalist, Kavous Seyed-Emami, committed suicide in prison:

“The death of Iranian-Canadian Kavous Seyed-Emami while in custody at Evin Prison on vague charges of espionage is deeply concerning. NIAC calls on Iranian authorities to allow an independent autopsy and uninhibited investigation into the circumstances that led to Seyed-Emami’s death in order to determine whether his human rights were violated and to hold accountable those responsible.

“Iran is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which obligates Iran to ensure that everyone has the right to ‘life, liberty and security of person,’ and that ‘[n]o one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.’ Seyed-Emami does not appear to have posed a security threat nor does the Iranian Judiciary’s explanation of his death add up. Moreover, coming on the heels of at least two other deaths at Evin Prison ruled officially as ‘suicides’ since the outbreak of protests in late December, Seyed-Emami’s death creates the suspicion that Iranian authorities are killing political opponents with impunity. If this is not the case, Iranian authorities should be eager to permit an uninhibited independent investigation.

“Iran is facing major and serious environmental issues which have worried the population at large, and the government needs to take those concerns seriously. Instead, given the treatment of Seyed-Emami and other environmental activists by Iranian authorities, it appears that Iran’s government is intent on securitizing the environmental sphere like so many other parts of Iranian society.

“NIAC once again reiterates its call on the Iranian government to fully abide by its international human rights obligations, including by releasing all prisoners of conscience.”

NIAC Calls for Release of Women Peacefully Protesting Hijab and Gender Discrimination

The National Iranian American Council released the following statement on protests led by Iranian women against compulsory hijab:  

“In recent days, many Iranians have taken to the streets to protest the laws mandating women to wear hijab in public spaces, replicating the protest of Vida Movahed in December who was detained by authorities after standing on a telecom box and waving her headscarf on a stick on Enghelab Street. Reports that dozens of women have been arrested for their purported involvement in peaceful protests are deeply concerning. These individuals, like any detained unjustly, should be released without delay.  

“Women in Iran have been their own best champions and have pursued a dignified and non-violent campaign for equality for decades. They have historically been a vibrant and leading presence in shaping the trajectory of the social and political landscapes of their society. They are themselves the most critical actors in this debate. Just as with other legitimate protests in Iran, it is important that outside actors do not try to use the justified grievances of the Iranian people to advance their own ends – separate from that of the people in Iran. 

“The Iranian government must observe the right of both women and men – enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which Iran has ratified – to free speech and peaceful assembly. Additionally, the UDHR entitles all Iranians to equal protection of the law without discrimination. Unfortunately, the discrimination women in Iran face goes far beyond the hijab – it is systemic and affects women in almost every aspect of their lives from employment to inheritance laws.

“The ongoing protests show that the women of Iran continue their dignified, long-standing and non-violent struggle against the systemic discrimination they face. The government of Iran should heed their voices.”


NIAC Begins Voter Education Campaign in Northern California Counties

The Iranian-American community is grossly underrepresented in politics. But we can easily change this by registering and turning out to vote in large numbers and making sure our community is as visible as possible during the upcoming election season. That is why I am excited to announce that NIAC will be supporting California’s Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) in Northern California as the first of several major efforts we will be undertaking in 2018 to ensure Iranian Americans have a major impact at the polls in the upcoming elections.

The idea behind VCA is to increase voter participation in California elections by increasing access to voting. NIAC will be running a voter education campaign in two counties with relatively large Iranian-American populations – San Mateo and Sacramento County – to ensure our communities there know about the new changes to their voting options.

The VCA expands voting options for Californians in certain counties. All registered voters in the participating counties will be mailed a vote-by-mail ballot, which they can either mail or drop at one of many drop-boxes across the county. Prefer to vote in person? No problem! There will also be vote centers opening across the county. Voters can choose to vote at whichever center is most convenient for them, rather than being assigned a specific polling location. Vote centers will be open 3 days before election day, with some opening 11-29 days before election day, depending on the county. So far, Sacramento, San Mateo, Napa, Nevada, and Madera county will be participating in the VCA during the 2018 election. If you’re interested in learning more about the VCA, check out

NIAC’s work will involve translating materials to Persian, contacting voters, holding educational events, and participating in Voter’s Choice California coalition meetings and actions to collaborate with other organizations and make sure our community has adequate representation in outreach plans. We have even received grant funding from the Future of California Elections and the Hopewell Fund to make sure we have the resources to fund this program.

The counties are still in their initial planning stages of the VCA, developing their Election Administration Plans (EAPs). Recently, we submitted a public comment addressing both San Mateo and Sacramento’s EAPs with suggestions on how to conduct outreach to the Iranian-American community and participated in a public hearing to outline these recommendations. We plan on submitting a public comment once Sacramento County completes its updated EAP.

As we get closer to election day, we’re going to need a lot of help to make sure we reach out to as many Iranian-American voters as possible. So if you live near San Mateo or Sacramento County and wish to get involved, sign up to volunteer at! Have questions? Email our Northern California Field Organizer, Dornaz Memarzia, at

NIAC Condemns Trump’s Divisive Address




Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council, released the following statement in response to tonight’s State of the Union address:

“President Trump’s first year in office was spent dividing our union and undermining American credibility abroad. Far from taking actions to restrain a President woefully unfit for the job and dedicated to discriminatory and un-American policies like the Muslim ban, Congress has aided and abetted Trump. The American people, including the Iranian-American community, will remember those legislators who have defended Trump’s disgraceful policies and then stood and applauded him tonight. They will also remember those who criticized Trump’s actions on the sidelines but refused to challenge him when it really counted.

“Trump’s words of praise for the Iranian people were once again utterly hollow. Only a President without any conscience could praise the very people he is banning. Trump should drop the ban, but if he is too attached to his bigotry to do so, he should at least stop pretending to be a friend of the Iranian people.

“Trump once again reminded Congress that the buck stops with them on the Iran nuclear deal and broader areas of concern with Iran. But Congress cannot unilaterally alter the terms of a multilateral agreement without violating its terms. Moreover, there is already a blueprint of success on issues of concern with Iran: serious, multilateral negotiations aimed at mutual compromise. Unfortunately, Trump has shown outright disdain for this successful approach, with the administration having zero communication with Iran outside of what is required by the nuclear accord.

“Trump, of course, neglected to mention that Iran is complying with the nuclear accord and that international inspectors in Iran are implementing the most robust verification regime in the world thanks to the nuclear deal. Congress should continue to abstain from any action that would push the U.S. into violation of the accord, while also undertaking steps to pressure the administration to recommit to fully abide by all the terms of the deal. There is no excuse for Members of Congress to be an accomplice to Trump’s undermining of an accord that is forestalling an Iranian nuclear weapon and war with Iran over its nuclear program – otherwise, they will share the blame for the accord’s collapse.”


NIAC Calls For Immediate Accountability For Officers Involved In The Fatal Shooting Of Bijan Ghaisar

Contact: Shayan H. Modarres
Phone: (202) 386-6325

Washington, D.C. – The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) issued the following statement in response to the release of video footage recorded by Fairfax County Police Department depicting the last moments of Bijan Ghaisar’s life before he was shot to death by officers.

“It is unacceptable that a young man who was the victim of a minor fender bender has been tragically shot and killed by three bullets to the head from police officers’ guns.

“The video released this morning, and what we know so far, certainly seem to indicate that officers repeatedly and aggressively charged towards Bijan Ghaisar’s vehicle looking for a confrontation and shot Bijan three times in the head at close range. The fact that officers did not use every tool at their disposal to de-escalate the situation and minimize the need for use of force exposes not only the glaring deficiency in training, but also what appears to be a wanton and reckless disregard for Bijan’s life. Nothing in the video justifies that this incident should have ended in a fatal shooting.

“This tragic incident comes at a dark time for an Iranian-American community that has been profiled, discriminated against, and targeted by policies and hateful rhetoric from the White House. Through policies like the Muslim Ban, Iranian Americans have been characterized as inherently dangerous and a threat to national security by the White House and other officials. This certainly calls into question whether Bijan Ghaisar was profiled because of his physical appearance and personalized “BIJAN” license plate.

“The Iranian-American community stands in solidarity with other communities of color that have been impacted by unjustified police violence against unarmed citizens. The need for immediate policing reform in the United States is an issue that transcends creed, color, class, or political affiliation.

“Training reforms must include implicit and unconscious biases training so that officers are better equipped to identify threats, and not perceive people of color as greater threats and, therefore, react more aggressively when confronting them. We must have community oversight, and meaningful and sincere reviews of uses of force by law enforcement with swift and severe consequences for officers that violate the law.

“Training reforms must also emphasize de-escalation techniques and tactics to minimize the need for officers to rely on force, and particularly lethal force. Officers must be taught that in circumstances such as this, where someone like Bijan presents no immediate threat to officer or public safety, officers must try to make contact from a safe distance rather than rushing to the vehicle to engage in a violent confrontation. If the circumstances permit, a tactical withdrawal, or temporary retreat, will minimize the need to rely on use of force and offer alternatives to lethal force, such as communication and non-violent tactics.

“Officers must also be trained to use lethal force as a last resort and not a first option. There are a number of non-lethal tools at an officer’s disposal like pepper spray, tasers, and batons.

“If police culture shifted towards these reforms, and others, which emphasize valuing and preserving life, Bijan Ghaisar would likely be alive today. Instead, the victim of a minor fender bender is dead, shot multiple times by police, and a family – indeed an entire community – is left completely devastated.

“NIAC calls on the Fairfax County Police Department, the United States Park Police, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct a thorough and professional review of all existing policies, institute any and all necessary reforms, and hold accountable officers that acted wrongfully through swift and immediate action.”



NIAC Statement on Trump’s Iran Deal Ultimatum

NIAC President Trita Parsi released the following statement after President Trump coupled a reissuance of sanctions waivers with new sanctions on Iran:

“President Trump’s statement today is little more than a temporary stay of execution. He has once again threatened to kill the Iran nuclear accord outright if Congress and the European Union do not go along with his demands to unilaterally change the terms of the deal in four months, including by expanding it to include Iran’s missile program and by eliminating sunsets on some of Iran’s nuclear activities. This is nothing more than a transparent attempt to seek political cover for his continuing, outrageous efforts to kill an accord that has succeeded in forestalling a nuclear-armed Iran and war with Iran. Trump’s demands are also illogical, as it threatens to expire all nuclear constraints immediately if they aren’t extended forever – a bluff that is likely to be called. Congress and our European partners should denounce Trump’s destabilizing declaration and hold firm in their refusal to negotiate on any legislation that violates the accord including through the unilateral alteration of the agreement’s terms.

“If Trump truly wanted alterations to the deal, he would recommit to the agreement as written and ensure the effective provision of sanctions relief, pledge to renew all sanctions waivers so long as Iran upholds its nuclear commitments and, lastly, engage in serious negotiations with the Iranians and other parties to the nuclear accord on the basis of ‘more for more.’ There has been no indication that Trump intends to do so. In fact, he continues to violate the accord’s commitment to implement the deal in good faith and has discouraged foreign countries from doing business with Iran.

“Targeted sanctioning of human rights violators is a positive step from a human rights standpoint. Yet, these steps  are complicated by Trump’s broader threat to re-impose sanctions in four months that would kill the deal and corresponding economic relief the Iranian people strongly desire as a means to improve their lives. Moreover, as Trump continues to ban the Iranian people from the United States, it is impossible to take Trump’s hollow expressions of support for the Iranian people seriously. You cannot simultaneously stand with the Iranian people while barring them from entering the country on the basis of their religion and national origin and sanctioning them as they protest for their economic dignity.

“Trump’s record is clear: he is no friend to the Iranian people, and he is actively violating the Iran nuclear deal while threatening to kill it outright. Congress and Europe should not provide him political cover by falling for his demands to alter the deal. If Trump wants to fix the deal, let him use the nation’s diplomats. If he wants to kill the deal, as seems likely, let him own the consequences. Congress’ attention would be better focused on demonstrating America’s true friendship for the people of Iran, including via the repeal of the unconscionable Muslim ban.”


NIAC Statement on Trump Plans to Renew Iran Sanctions Waivers

NIAC President Trita Parsi issued the following statement regarding reports that President Trump will extend key sanctions waivers tomorrow as obligated by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran nuclear deal:

“At first glance, Donald Trump’s anticipated decision to reissue sanctions waivers on Iran comes across as a retreat from his promise to terminate the Iran nuclear deal. In reality, however, he is opting to kill the deal in a less direct way.

“By deliberately creating uncertainty at every three month deadline as to whether the U.S. will honor its commitments, Trump makes it impossible for sanctions relief to move forward as promised under the accord. This uncertainty has worked as a de facto sanction and helps prevent investments from reaching Iran, which in turn has contributed to the economic frustrations of the Iranian people.

“Trump’s calculation is that with a sword of Damocles hanging over the deal, Iran will eventually see no value for it to comply with the deal and be the first to pull out. This way, Trump manages to kill the accord while ensuring that Tehran gets the blame for its collapse.

“The Trump administration appears to view the recent protests in Iran as a sign of the success of its sabotage of the deal. Since the sabotage is working, there is no need to formally pull out of the deal, the reasoning behind today’s decision reads.  

“However, Trump’s efforts to create deliberate ambiguities aimed at deterring permissible business with Iran is a violation of the deal itself. The U.S. is obligated under the nuclear accord to not just waive nuclear-related sanctions but also refrain from interfering with the implementation of that relief through other means. Trump’s actions fly in the face of that commitment.

“The Iranian people – who have once again bravely made their voices heard in recent weeks despite the risk of repression – deserve better. Trump’s interference with the nuclear accord has diminished U.S. leverage and credibility with all parties to the Iran deal – including not just Iran, but our allies in Europe. If the U.S. truly wants to address issues of concerns with Iran – from human rights concerns to terrorism to regional security issues – we cannot have a policy that actively undermines our own credibility and influence.

“Instead of seeking more ways to punish the Iranian people via broad sanctions, Congress should consider how to truly stand with the Iranian people. Step one should be to rescind Trump’s unconscionable Muslim ban that targets Iranians and renders any rhetoric on the U.S. standing with the Iranian people hollow. Step two should be seeking to ensure that the U.S. upholds its word and fully delivers on sanctions relief promised under the nuclear accord. Only then can we begin to reestablish a coherent policy towards Iran and the Iranian people – and credibly shine a light on Iran’s deplorable human rights record.”


NIAC Calls for Release of Demonstrators

Washington, D.C. – National Iranian American Council issued the following statement:

“We reiterate our call on the Iranian government to honor its human rights obligations, including by releasing all prisoners of conscience. The government has detained thousands of Iranians in the midst of the demonstrations and at least 2 have died while in detention. This is in addition to at least 21 who died during the initial protests that began on December 28. Many Iranians continue to demonstrate outside of Evin and other prisons were protesters have been held. The Iranian government needs to answer calls for their release, allow an independent investigation of the detainees’ deaths, and prosecute anyone involved in the deaths of detainees and of Iranians expressing their right to free expression and peaceful assembly.

“We continue to support targeted sanctions against human rights violators in the Iranian government and urge that these measures be carried out multilaterally and in a manner that does not punish ordinary people. We also continue to urge American officials and companies to take necessary steps to ensure that online communications tools are fully available for Iranians and that sanctions are not unintentionally aiding Iran’s government in censoring Internet communications.

“It is up to Iranians living in Iran to decide their country’s destiny. As outside observers, we will continue our efforts to defend their rights and that the international community presses the Iranian government to respect its human rights obligations. We stand in solidarity with all Iranians who seek a government that respects the human rights and dignity of Iranians everywhere and democratically represents its people.”


NIAC Statement on Iran Demonstrations

Washington, D.C. – National Iranian American Council President Trita Parsi issued the following statement:

“Like many, we have been monitoring the situation in Iran very closely and been in touch with people on the ground. We reiterate our call to the Iranian government to uphold its international human rights obligations, including to allow the right to free expression, to respect the dignity and safety of every Iranian and to refrain from violence. Our thoughts are with our families and friends and the peoples of Iran, who we hope are safe.

“As Iranian Americans, we certainly have our own thoughts about these protests and what they may mean. The vast majority of us yearn for an Iranian government that respects the human rights and dignity of Iranians everywhere and democratically represents its people.

“Ultimately, like any other country,  it is up to Iranians living in Iran to decide their country’s destiny. As outside observers we express our solidarity and hopes for the safety of every Iranian. As Iranian Americans we will also work to ensure that neither our government in the U.S., nor others in the region or beyond, undermine the safety of the Iranian people or exploit the current protests for their own benefit.”