NIAC’s 2019 Reflections
End of year message from NIAC President, Jamal Abdi:
I could not be more proud to be part of the organization that is fighting in the trenches every single day to advance the interests and protect the rights of the Iranian-American community and our allies that support peace, civil rights, and fair immigration.
Despite the many challenges our community faced in 2019, we achieved a lot and are setup for success in 2020. None of our accomplishments happen in a vacuum – they are the result of the hard work of NIAC’s staff members, board, and volunteers; the contributions of our supporters, and the alliances we have with our friends at J Street, ACLU, Iranian American Bar Association, and our network of partner organizations large and small.
From acting as a trusted voice on U.S.-Iran relations, to pushing forth legislation that protects us from systematic discrimination, to celebrating our culture and heritage, together we are making a lasting impact for our community and for all Americans.
Our victories are your victories–and your support ensures we can continue building the political power needed to champion our community’s priorities into 2020 and beyond.
Read on for just a few of the many wins we collectively secured in 2019:
BUILDING POLITICAL POWER
The 2020 election may be the most critical one of our lifetime. By engaging our community in the policymaking and electoral processes, and organizing our resources through political giving and volunteering, we are building a future in which our community’s interests are represented all across the U.S. In 2019, we doubled down on building political power by:
- Launching NIAC Action PAC to support candidates championing the priorities of the Iranian-American community like blocking war with Iran and repealing Trump’s Muslim Ban.
- Helping elect Iranian Americans to office, including Parisa Dehghani-Tafti who won her race for Commonwealth Attorney of Arlington County & the City of Falls Church.
- Endorsing our largest slate of candidates yet, including incumbent Members of Congress and rising Iranian-American leaders.
ADVANCING PEACE & DIPLOMACY
11,944. That’s how many messages NIAC members sent to their elected officials in 2019 demanding they block Trump’s path to war. An empowered Iranian-American community can advance policies that incentivize peace and diplomacy across the global stage. In 2019, our fight to advance peace & diplomacy included:
- Turning the tide against war with Iran by helping secure bipartisan support for the Khanna-Gaetz amendment in the House and Senate in the strongest Congressional statement yet that the President does not have authorization for war.
- Advancing a U.S. return to the Iran nuclear deal by helping secure commitments from 2020 Presidential candidates to return the U.S. to the agreement.
- Challenging Trump’s use of Iran sanctions to deliberately target humanitarian trade, including by working with Members of Congress to call for the protection of humanitarian trade with Iran.
Immigrants are what makes America great and are the cornerstone of the inclusivity, justice, and equality necessary to keep the American dream alive. Ensuring that Iranians have the same opportunities as other nationals key to protecting diversity. This year, we worked to secure equitable immigration by:
- Securing the first ever Congressional oversight hearing on the Muslim ban and securing an Iranian-American victim of the ban to testify at the hearing.
- Maintaining pressure on the administration to repeal the ban and supporting efforts to encourage faster processing of waivers from the ban.
- Worked with impacted individuals to share their stories with the press, most recently with the New York Times, which highlighted the devastating impact of the ban on the Iranian American community.
- Leading the fight against legislation that would end the green card process for Iranians as we know it and which remains a significant threat in 2020.
This country’s founders enshrined the inalienable rights of all people in our Constitution and Americans have fought for generations to secure and protect those rights. Our community faced numerous setbacks to our basic civil rights this year, but we took on the battles to preserve our rights by:
- Petitioning the Department of Treasury for a formal rule change to license Americans to operate bank accounts from Iran.
- Calling on Bank of America to halt its practice of shutting the accounts of individuals of Iranian national origin or heritage.
SPOTLIGHTING HUMAN RIGHTS IN IRAN
Raising up the struggles faced by Iranian human rights defenders and holding the Iranian government to human rights standards is essential to building a future in which the U.S. and Iran enjoy positive relations. As an American organization, NIAC does not have a role to play in the domestic affairs of Iran–but we do have an obligation to support human rights standards to which the U.S. and Iran are party. Our initiatives in 2019 included:
- Revitalizing our Human Rights Tracker to bring attention to human rights abuses that daily impact the lives of Iranian people. Weekly updates feature high profile stories as well as broader trends.
- Underscoring the impact of U.S. sanctions on human rights in Iran by working with notable human rights groups, like Human RightWatch, to host events illuminating the human cost of sanctions.
- Highlighting campaigns and efforts of human rights organizations working on Iran to hold its government accountable for human rights abuses.
COMMUNITY & CULTURE
NIAC takes immense pride in the rich tapestry that makes up the Iranian-American community and culture. Our heritage provides us common ground to grow as a community and support one another as we trailblaze in the U.S. Our community & culture initiatives this year include:
- Producing a video showcasing the diversity of the Iranian-American community featuring NIAC’s staff and members of our community alongside prominent Iranian Americans like Reza Aslan, Firoozeh Dumas, and Arian Moayed.
- Celebrating Iranian-American artists of all stripes. From authors to filmmakers, we reach out to our community’s creative masters both to share their amazing works with a broader audience.
- Sharing narratives from LGBTQ+ Iranian Americans and other marginalized voices from within our community. We take pride in our diversity, and remain dedicated to ensuring equality and shedding the taboos of the past.