Washington, DC – As part of the Stand with the Iranian People Challenge, NIAC unveiled a brand-new tool for Iranian Americans to take action—the mehmoonak. To date, NIAC members have hosted mehmoonaks in four Congressional districts, where they organized letter-writing campaigns to their elected representatives urging them to support the Stand With the Iranian People Act (SWIPA).
Mehmoonaks are easy to organize – NIAC staff members are on hand every step of the way – and have proven themselves to be tremendously effective. For example, a mehmoonak in Oklahoma was recently attended by Oklahoma State Representative Paul Wesselhoft. Rep. Wesselhoft was so moved by the Iranian civil rights movement that he offered to introduce a similar resolution in the Oklahoma state legislature. “We should modify the sanctions to help communication of the [Iranian] people so I suggested that I introduce this resolution and felt confident that my colleagues would support it.” He was right.
On Monday, May 10, the Oklahoma House of Representatives unanimously passed HR 1090, “encouraging the U.S. Congress to craft legislation to support the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people by enhancing their ability to access the Internet and communications services.” “If we can do it here, other states can do it as well,” said Wesselhoft triumphantly.
Wessolhoft explained the importance of these state resolutions. “If I was a US Congressman and I saw a resolution that passed unanimously by my state legislature, I’m going to take that very seriously. It expresses the will of the people; each one of us represents some 35,000 people.” Wesseholft encouraged NIAC members across the nation to, “Take the resolution we passed here to their state senator and see what they can do in their state.”
Not only did NIAC’s members in OK manage to pass a resolution, their letters to Congressman Boren (D-OK) garnered an expedient response from his staff. “I just had a call from Congressman Boren’s political director in response to my letter to him…these letters do work and we must continue this letter campaign and contacting our elected officials,” said one NIAC member.
Mehmoonaks were also held in New York’s 12th District and Virginia’s 8th district where Iranian Americans wrote Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez and Congressman Jim Moran. Following the mehmoonak in Virginia, Rep. Moran signed on to SWIPA.
The legislation, which stands in stark contrast to other proposed bills on Iran by taking constructive steps to ease the suffering of the Iranian people, has gained four official cosponsors in just the past two months. Currently, Reps Delahunt (D-MA), Meeks (D-NY), Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Tanner (D-TN), Moran (D-VA), and Stark (D-CA), are cosponsors of the bill that was originally introduced by Rep. Keith Ellison last December.
As part of the Stand With the Iranian People Challenge, NIAC is aiming to double the number of cosponsors on SWIPA in a matter of months.
These mehmoonaks were just the start, now need supporters across the nation to step up as there’s too much at stake to do nothing. As Wesseholft, a Vietnam veteran said worriedly, “If those changes don’t come about internally, there’s going to be [military] action taken against Iran externally, it’s just a matter of by whom, Israel or the US. The Iranian people have suffered enough, I want to see internal changes so that these drastic actions are not necessary.”
Will you take the SWIPA Challenge? To learn more about NIAC’s mehmoonaks and other ways you can make an impact for, visit the SWIPA Challenge Page.