April 29, 2024

NIAC Progress Report as of April 2024

Transparency is core to NIAC’s values. Here is a breakdown of some of our work in 2024 through the month of April. 

President’s Message

History is littered with examples of how, when those with power are losing the argument, they brand their opponents as agents of foreign powers to try to silence them. In Iran, successive rulers have claimed that any protestors are agents of Israel, the U.S. or Britain, to invalidate legitimate grievances. In the U.S., we know well how the “dual loyalty” smear has been used to silence progressive Iranian-American voices lest they be labeled “agents of the Islamic Republic” for opposing war and sanctions.

Today, even in the wake of the U.S. agreeing to send billions of dollars to Israel as the war in Gaza continues, the pro-Israel lobby is losing the argument. As students began gathering at college campuses across the U.S. to protest the war in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly called for American security forces to shut them down. The President of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, has called student protestors agents of Iran. “Iran has their military proxies, like Hezbollah, and Iran has their campus proxies like these groups… Look at them,” he said, “this is literally like a demonstration in Tehran.”

There is a big difference between politics driven by values versus politics driven by self-interest. Values dictate that silencing dissent is unacceptable and anti-democratic – regardless of whether you agree or disagree with that speech. Self-interest, on the other hand, says that free speech is important only for your own group, but not those you disagree with. It says that human rights are important when it is the Islamic Republic abusing them, but we should turn a blind eye when abuses are leveled by Israel at Palestinians. It says that killing civilians is wrong when the bad guys do it, but fine if our friends are doing the killing.

Our values dictate that we stand against hate and dehumanization in all their forms, and that we stand up for the right to dissent. We stand in solidarity with all of the students who are peacefully organizing for peace, and condemn those engaging in libelous attacks that encourage authoritarianism and violence.

Read on for more of the activities we have engaged in over the past couple weeks in support of our values, from mobilizing grassroots volunteers in support of ceasefire and against war with Iran, to standing up to block an effort in Congress to ban travel to Iran, to working to secure representation for Iranian Americans and all communities in the U.S. census. We can’t do any of this work without your support and alignment of values, so thank you for standing tall alongside us.

– Jamal Abdi

Protecting Civil Rights

The Intercept reported on the Congressional efforts to ban U.S. travel to Iran that NIAC has been working to stop:

Civil liberties groups are raising alarms about a bill making its way through Congress that applies pressure for a ban on travel to Iran for Americans using U.S. passports. The rights groups see the bill as part of a growing attempt to control the travel of American citizens and bar Iranian Americans in particular from maintaining connections with friends and loved ones inside Iran.

“If you’re an American citizen, the government should not be controlling where you can travel.”

“This bill is very concerning because it’s the beginning of a process of criminalizing something that is very normal for many people, which is traveling to Iran,” said Ryan Costello, policy director at the National Iranian American Council.

Along with a flurry of other sanctions bills targeting Iran, the bill calling for the travel restrictions passed the U.S. House last week. The bill is now slated to come before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Introduced last fall, the No Paydays for Hostage-Takers Act languished until tensions between Iran and Israel escalated into a series of reciprocal attacks earlier this month.

Read the full article, “House Responds to Israeli-Iranian Missile Exchange By Taking Rights Away From Americans” at The Intercept.

No War

As part of ongoing efforts to mobilize our community for peace, NIAC Action alongside a coalition of over 40 organizations, mobilized for a Week of Action for Ceasefire on Capitol Hill to double down on the urgent demand for a ceasefire and for the U.S. to utilize its considerable leverage to stop the killing, prevent a regional war with Iran, and pursue a political solution to the many challenges at hand.

During this Week of Action, NIAC Action sponsored 23 volunteers to travel to Washington D.C. to meet with their Congressperson and Senators – as part of a coalition of over 500 volunteers and 50+ groups who traveled to D.C. from around the country to meet with key elected officials. 

Check out some of the snapshots from our advocacy in D.C. below and stay tuned in for more opportunities.

In addition to meeting with lawmakers in D.C., we gathered experts on Palestine, U.S. weapons policy, Israel, and Iran – –  Iman Abid-Thompson from the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, John Chappell from the Center for Civilians in Conflict, Odeliya Matter from the Friends Committee on National Legislation and Sina Azodi from the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University – –  to explore and discuss what we can do to secure a ceasefire.

>> Watch the panel here in case you missed it!

Congress Doubles Down on War Path with Israel and Iran on the Brink

Congress’ foreign aid bill was signed into law this week, providing Israel with billions of dollars for offensive weaponry and expanding broad sanctions against Iran. The Iran sanctions in the bill include the SHIP Act and MAHSA Act, both priorities of AIPAC. While the MAHSA Act is largely symbolic, the SHIP Act significantly expands oil sanctions while providing limited waiver authority to the President and was opposed by NIAC.

Coming amid a devastating famine in Gaza and inflamed tensions between Israel and Iran, it’s shameful that Congress is focused on keeping weapons flowing unconditionally to fuel the war in Gaza while imposing more failed sanctions on Iran.

Learn More 

>> NIAC Statement on Israeli Strikes in Isfahan, Iran

>> NIAC Statement on Iranian Retaliation Against Israel

>> NIAC Statement on Israeli Attack on Iranian Consulate 

Building Political Power

Some Good News 🎉California MENA Inclusion Act Advancing🎉

Last month, after decades of research, education and advocacy by NIAC and many others, the Office of Management and Budget announced  that the next Census in 2030 will officially include Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) as a federal category option, with “Iranian” included as a subcategory, among others. This change will ultimately allow us to better understand and subsequently cater to our community’s needs in health, business, political representation, and more. However, there still remains much to be achieved at the state level to ensure that subcategories are being properly accounted for and to continue building on the foundation of political power that the federal category establishes. And we have been doing just that with our colleagues in the California MENA Coalition with the introduction of and advocacy for AB 2763 – the California MENA Inclusion Act. See below for an update on the bill’s status:

AB 2763 has been swiftly working its way through the California State Assembly. Earlier this month, the bill passed unanimously through both the Judiciary and Public Safety Committees, and now remains at its last stop before the final Assembly vote: the Appropriations Committee. A hearing will be held by Assembly Appropriations next week to determine the fiscal impact of the bill so, in the meantime, if you live in California, additional ACTION is needed! Click here to send a letter to your assemblymember to let them know you want California to pass AB 2763.

Separately, the bill recently secured additional co-authorship from Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D) which, in addition to the original co-authorship from Assemblymember Bill Essayli (R), officially makes this a bipartisan bill!🎉

ICYMI: Members of the California MENA community and organizers within the coalition recently convened in a virtual panel to discuss the advocacy behind the #CountMENAinCA campaign, the federal versus state challenges, and the significance of MENA data collection overall.

>> You can watch the full panel here.

Human Rights Tracker

Iranian Revolutionary Court Overrides Supreme Court, Sentences Dissenting Rapper Toomaj Salehi to Death

The Isfahan Revolutionary Court has disregarded a Supreme Court verdict and sentenced Toomaj Salehi, a prominent Iranian rapper and dissenting voice, to execution on charges of “corruption on earth.” We call for the immediate and unconditional release of Salehi and reiterate our call on the Islamic Republic to halt all applications of the death penalty and to move its judiciary in line with international human rights standards. NIAC condemns this sentencing in the strongest terms:

Unlawful Exile of Political Prisoners in Iran: A Violation of Human Rights

The recent illegal transfer of Saeed Madani to Damavand Prison from Evin Prison, reflects a systematic attempt to suppress dissent and isolate political dissidents from their communities and support networks. Madani is a renowned scholar whose work has focused on social problems within Iran, including on poverty, inequality, children’s rights, drug abuse and addictions, domestic violence, and sex workers.

Read Past Issues of NIAC’s Human Rights Tracker Here >>

Iran Unfiltered

Hijab Enforcement Escalates Amid Growing Tensions and Public Dissent, Iran and Pakistan Sign Eight Cooperation Agreements, Football Authorities Criticized for Fining Esteghlal Captain, and More

Iran Unfiltered is a digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council 📥 Subscribe to receive Iran Unfiltered in your inbox >

Community & Culture 

NIAC’s local chapters are hosting happy hours, dinners and meetings to build local political power and community. Get involved with your local NIAC chapter or with allied groups in your area !!

>> Click here to sign up

Stay Engaged

Follow NIAC on TikTokTwitter, Instagram, and Facebook for the latest updates.

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