As we monitor the situation inside Iran with a mix of hope and fear, and continue to be inspired by the bravery of the Iranian people standing up to the Iranian government’s brutal repression, we have been conducting a flurry of meetings in Washington to ensure the Biden Administration and members of the House and Senate are fully informed and taking the right steps to stand with the Iranian people.
If you are not already, please make sure to subscribe to NIAC’s Human Rights Tracker for ongoing updates on the situation on the ground in Iran. Since 2019, we’ve been producing this tracker weekly and in the last week, we’ve put out several as the situation in Iran is constantly evolving. We are also sharing updates on demonstrations and vigils you can attend in solidarity with Iranians.
Here is what we have been emphasizing in meetings with the Biden Administration and members of the House and Senate:
Expand Internet Access
The most important way for citizens to mobilize and share information is via the internet. For years, NIAC and others have advocated for eliminating sanctions on internet communications tools so that U.S. policy would not help Iran’s government censor, monitor, and shut down its citizens’ access to the internet. Last Friday, the Biden Administration listened and issued General License D-2 to ensure social media, cloud technology, and other internet-based tools and platforms are no longer blocked by sanctions. These few actions can make a difference for Iranians on the ground and make it harder for the Iranian government to throttle the internet in the future.
The faster tech companies reconnect Iranians, the sooner it will make a difference. That is why we are supporting outreach by the administration to urge companies to act, and we are conducting our own outreach to companies like Apple, Amazon, Google and more.
Target Human Rights Sanctions
Sanctions must target human rights violators in Iran’s government, not the people demanding their rights. In 2009, NIAC helped draft and enact the first human rights sanctions targeting Iranian officials, and we have been urging that the administration redouble these efforts and designate violators for targeted sanctions. We do understand that, because of the broad sanctions already in place against Iran, further sanctions can end up being duplicative. This is why we have consistently opposed broad sanctions that punish ordinary Iranians and instead have supported targeted sanctions against officials. These targeted designations will help build momentum and show solidarity to Iranians bravely fighting for their rights and in doing so risking their lives.
Listen to and Amplify the Voices of Iranians Inside Iran
While many of us are inspired and moved to action in solidarity with Iranians, we also must be careful to amplify their voices rather than speak for them. This is one reason why internet access is so important, so the Iranian people can tell their story rather than someone telling it for them. We have encouraged policymakers to listen to the Iranian people, particularly Iranian women who are leading this movement from the frontlines, and help uplift those voices. We’ve urged that the administration consider other measures to ensure Iranians are not isolated and their voices can be heard, and have urged that more be done to help support Iranian refugees, political prisoners, and asylum seekers.
We have heard numerous reports of Meta taking down Facebook and Instagram posts either exposing Iranian government abuses or standing in solidarity with the people of Iran. That is unacceptable and we must have answers and action. That’s why we have contacted Meta to urge them to investigate and resolve this issue, and we encourage you to take action here to tell Meta to lift up Iranian voices, not silence them, at this crucial moment.
I want to hear from you
How are we doing? At times like this, it is critical our community talk to one another and unite rather than divide. For NIAC, the largest grassroots Iranian-American organization with a 20-year track record, it is vital to us that we convey the sentiment and recommendations of Iranian Americans and our allies who are committed to peace, human rights, and justice. So let us know — how are we doing? Is there anything we’re missing or any questions you have? Please reply to this email with any feedback or anything you would like answered and let us know what is on your mind and how we can be our best during these turbulent times. I’ll be reading your replies and we will be in touch soon.