July 29, 2010

Testing for Iranian Students Reinstated but Sanctions Concerns Linger

For Immediate Release
Contact: Phil Elwood
Phone: 202-423-7957
Email: [email protected]

Washington, DC – Exams that are required for students to study abroad have been reinstated in Iran after being disrupted temporarily by US and UN sanctions. The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) welcomes this news, but is concerned that this is just one example of how broad new sanctions will invariably punish innocent Iranians.

“It is welcome news that we have resolved this particular issue, but it is a real tragedy that the very first victims of the new sanctions were young Iranians who dream of studying in the US,” said Jamal Abdi, NIAC Policy Director. “Unfortunately, this episode is likely just the first sign of things to come. Sanctions designed to indiscriminately punish and isolate Iran are inevitably going to punish innocent Iranians who are the greatest allies of democracy and human rights in Iran.”

On July 16, Educational Testing Service (ETS), the US-based company that administers tests like the TOEFL and GRE, suspended testing in Iran because it was unable to process payments from Iran under new US-led sanctions.

In response, NIAC led a grassroots campaign of Iranian Americans to call on the Obama administration to intervene and ensure that Iranian students could continue to study abroad. NIAC also reiterated its call for the Obama Administration to change the “single-entry only” student visa policy. Under that policy, Iranians studying at American colleges cannot leave the US at any point during their studies without losing their visas.

According to ETS, the testing problem has now been resolved. While the US government did intervene to address the testing situation, the “single entry only” issue has not yet been addressed.

Students wishing to take the TOEFL, GRE or other tests may register through Iran’s National Organization of Educational Testing (Sazman Sanjesh), or may register directly with ETS if they have a credit or debit card issued by a bank that is not prohibited under US or UN sanctions.

ETS noted that demand in Iran for the TOEFL, an English-language proficiency exam required by most top colleges in the US and Europe, is among the highest for any of the countries in which the test is offered. Tom Ewing, spokesperson for ETS, told NIAC, “ETS has been providing the test in Iran since 1964, and is looking forward to continuing to do so in the future.”

The Iran Sanctions Act recently passed by Congress and signed into law by the President significantly expands the scope of US restrictions and jurisdiction over financial transactions with Iran. The new law, which will not fully take effect until September, has caused international banks, financial institutions, and other companies to completely withdraw from Iran. The bank that processed Iranian transactions for ETS was among those institutions to end operations in Iran, leaving ETS with no means to process fees and payments from Iranian students. That issue has now been resolved, but it is unclear what other institutions, activities, and individuals will be unintentionally punished by the new sanctions measures.




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