July 6, 2020

NIAC Calls for Treasury to Ensure Sanctions Do Not Hamper Scientific Exchange with Iran

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, July 6, 2020
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | [email protected]

Washington DC – The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) is concerned that Neuromatch Academy, a global online summer school based in the U.S. that advances public health and will teach neuroscience to more than 1,700 students from 65 countries, has been barred from including Iranians in its program due to U.S. sanctions. NIAC urges the Department of Treasury to resolve this issue — including by issuing a specific license to enable Neuromatch Academy to work with residents of Iran and by considering a general license to enable scientific exchanges regarding public health.

“Preventing American and Iranian neuroscientists from working together to advance public health – at the height of a pandemic, no less – serves no U.S. interest and is yet another example of our Iran sanctions harming innocent people,” said NIAC President Jamal Abdi. “These sanctions actively harm the global scientific community and risk setting back efforts to cure brain diseases and potentially address complications related to COVID-19.”

“Neuroscience is a global endeavor and many scientists from Iran are leading the effort to understand and cure diseases of the brain,” said University of Pennsylvania Professor Konrad Kording, a founding member of Neuromatch Academy. “There are no benefits to be gained by excluding Iranians from participating and it breaks my heart. Our elected officials have a moral duty to fix this law, and prioritize people and their health over politicking.”

Kording says the Academy will have to reject approximately 60 Iranians who had registered for its upcoming conference. Sanctions on Iran are tremendously difficult to navigate, but generally bar Americans from providing “services” to Iranians, including facilitating high-level scientific exchanges, without specific authorization from the Treasury Department. While Iranians are allowed to participate in certain online coursework, those exemptions do not extend to advanced work in the hard sciences, which is a major gap that must be fixed. 

“Yet again, U.S. policy on Iran is cutting off our nose to spite our face and punishing Iranian scientists who could be helping Americans and people across the globe,” said Abdi. “Disease does not abide by sanctions policy and, as we have painfully learned during the COVID pandemic, public health must not be a venue to settle political scores. We hope the Trump Administration will revisit the overly broad sanctions on Iran and provide necessary exemptions related to public health and addressing the pandemic.”


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