NIAC’s Jamal Abdi and Nobar Elmi published a piece in Tehran Bureau last Friday in which they argue that recent allegations of discrimination by Apple employees against Iranian Americans are rooted in flawed US-Iran sanctions policy. They write, “we need to realize that what is happening is not just a series of individual cases of alarming behavior,” but are instead “just the latest example of sanction laws being so broad that they are misinterpreted or overenforced and mistakenly applied.”
What is happening at Apples stores, Elmi and Abdi say, is not just the result of private companies “being overly cautious or not educating their employees about their sanctions policies,” but also a result of the U.S. government “continuing to broaden the sanctions and not issuing clear exemptions and guidelines for what is allowed.” They do point out the Obama Administration’s efforts to exempt certain communication software to promote Internet freedom in Iran, but say private companies like Google and Yahoo are, regardless, still blocking basic Internet communication tools in Iran.
Their conclusion is that the Apple episode demonstrates the many ways US-Iran relations affect our community, both inside and out of Iran, and cite this as why Iranian Americans must not to shy away from politics:
“None of us should be surprised that this is happening. Unintended consequences are the reality of broad sanctions. It’s been the policy of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) for many years to oppose broad, indiscriminate sanctions because they don’t punish the right targets (e.g., human rights abusers, the Iranian government) and instead hit ordinary people. The first time NIAC dealt with discrimination due to sanctions policy was ten years ago, when Monster.com prohibited job seekers from listing any work experience in Iran and other sanctioned countries, and removed such references from their resumes. We challenged Monster’s overenforcement and succeeded in correcting the company’s policy.
“We need to call on the U.S. government to take the necessary steps to ensure sanctions do not continue to be misapplied or overenforced to the detriment of Iranian Americans and Iranians. We also need to continue to call out private companies that are overenforcing and misapplying sanctions. And we need to challenge companies like Apple, whose employees’ actions are demeaning and discriminatory.”
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