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July 24, 2014

Why “Seal the Deal” Is Personal for Me


The outcome of the Iran nuclear talks is profoundly personal for me. Not only do I feel strong ties to the US, where I was born and raised, and Iran, the country of my ancestors – but my own family is suffering the crippling effect of Iran sanctions.

One of my uncles, a pistachio farm owner in Kerman, spent his entire life growing his business to support his family and send his four daughters to university. But today, due to the strong sting of sanctions, he can no longer sell his formerly global crop outside of Iran and worries for his family’s basic financial security.

A second uncle, who has long suffered from diabetes, cannot find the blood glucose test strips he needs, due to medical supply shortages stemming from broad banking sanctions on Iran. To survive, he relies entirely on the kindness and generosity of friends visiting from abroad to bring these much-needed strips to him.

I know that securing a diplomatic deal between Iran and the P5+1 is urgent not just for my family, but for thousands of ordinary Iranians who long for the opportunity to rebuild after years of suffering. And that’s exactly why I decided to join NIAC’s Seal the Deal Campaign.

This initiative aims to train Iranian Americans to engage directly with their Congressional offices, with the goal of convincing more lawmakers to publicly support the ongoing diplomatic talks. And despite being a Political Science major from UC Berkeley, I had actually never participated in civic life before getting involved in this campaign.

When I showed up for the first Seal the Deal strategy session in my local district, I did not know what to expect. Immediately, I was struck by the diversity of the group, whose ages varied from 22 to 75 and included recent Iranian immigrants, US-born Iranian Americans, and even an American of German/Australian descent. But despite our different backgrounds, our entire district team shared a common desire: to secure peace and diplomacy with Iran.

That day, NIAC staff trained us on how to hold an effective Congressional meeting, and we learned that sharing real, personal stories with our lawmakers is the most effective way to express why an issue matters to us directly as constituents.

As we started to share our personal stories with each other at the training, I was most moved by the story of one team member, named Parviz. At the young-at-heart age of 75, Parviz is a proud U.S citizen, former youth Mossadegh activist, and European-trained economist. He shared that he lived in Tehran during the Iran-Iraq war, and that this war claimed the lives of two of his dearest childhood friends – a loss so crushing that he still gets choked up as he talks about it. Reflecting on why he has started to participate in US politics for the first time through this campaign, Parviz told us, “no good comes from war, we cannot allow for it to happen to our two beloved countries” – an outcome that is likely if an Iran deal is not struck.  

After that first gathering, our newly formed team continued to practice and prepare together by phone, email, and in coffee shops. And when the day finally came for our first-ever legislative meeting, despite some initial nervousness, I quickly saw our practice and preparation pay off. We spoke from our hearts and shared our stories with Congresswoman Speier, who listened attentively and actively engaged with us. At the end of the meeting, she made clear that she is committed to fearlessly defending the interests of the American people – and those include avoiding another costly war.

My team viewed the meeting as a huge step in the right direction and a solid foundation from which we need to continue building an ongoing relationship with our Representative and her office. We plan to follow up with Congresswoman Speier regularly to ensure that she lives out her strong values and takes concrete action to support diplomacy in these critical months ahead. As for myself, I left the meeting moved by the power of our collective voices and motivated to interact with my lawmakers’ offices more regularly.

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