بانک‌ها در برابر ایرانی-آمریکایی‌ها تبعیض قائل می‌شوند – این اقدامی است که ما در مورد آن انجام می‌دهیم

,دوست عزیز

سال‌هاست که بسیاری از ایرانی-آمریکایی‌ها، تنها به دلیل تبارِ ایرانی‌شان، با بسته‌شدن حساب‌های بانکی خود مواجه می‌شوند. این نوعی تبعیضِ آزاردهنده است که می‌تواند فرد را در حالی که منتظر آزادشدن پس‌انداز و سرمایه‌ی زندگی‌اش است، با مشکلات مالی بسیاری روبه‌رو کند.

بانک‌ها در گفت‌وگو با ما توضیح می‌دهند که این کار، نوعی اقدام احتیاطی برای پیروی از تحریم‌های آمریکاست که اشخاص را از کار کردن با حساب‌های بانکی در ایران منع می‌کند. در حالی که قانون این اقدام را طلب نمی‌کند، بسیاری از بانک‌ها ریسک تبعیض علیه ایرانیان آمریکا را به ریسک نقض تحریم‌ها ترجیح می‌دهند.

به همین خاطر، امروز شورای ملی ایرانیان آمریکا (نایاک) تقاضانامه‌ای را تنظیم می‌کند که از وزارت خزانه‌داری می‌خواهد تا با تغییر رسمی قانون، به آمریکاییان اجازه دهد که بتوانند با حساب‌های بانکی در ایران کار کنند. این عمل، هزینه‌ای برای ایالات متحده ندارد و باید به کارکرد بانک‌ها در قبال بستن حساب‌های ایرانی-آمریکایی‌ها و شهروندان ایرانی ساکن آمریکا پایان دهد. علی‌رغم این‌که انتظار داریم بازبینی این روند طولانی و زمان‌بر باشد، اما بر این باوریم که در نهایت می‌توانیم این قانون را تغییر دهیم و به اقدام تبعیض‌آمیز بانک‌ها در قبال جامعه‌مان پایان بخشیم.

علاوه بر این، بیشترین شکایت‌هایی که تاکنون دریافت کرده‌ایم، به عملکرد بانک آمریکا باز می‌گردد. با وجود تلاش‌های متعدد از سال ۲۰۱۴ در جهت مجاب‌کردن بانک آمریکا برای تغییر سیاست‌هایش در قبال اشخاصی که عضو جامعه‌ی ما هستند، این بانک کماکان بدون هشدار یا با اطلاع رسانی کوتاه، به بستن حساب‌های ایرانی-آمریکایی‌ها ادامه می‌دهد.

به همین دلیل، ما بار دیگر نامه‌ای به بانک آمریکا فرستاده‌ایم تا برای این نهاد روشن کنیم که تحریم‌ها، آنان را به بستن حساب شهروندان معمولی مقیم آمریکا مجبور نمی‌کند و تصریح کرده‌ایم که برای حفاظت از منافع جامعه ایرانی در آمریکا، گزینه‌ی اقدام حقوقی را باز گذاشته‌ایم تا به رفتار تبعیض‌آمیز این بانک پایان دهیم.

اگر شما از جانب یک بانک با تبعیض مشابه روبه‌رو شده‌اید یا حساب‌تان مسدود شده، از شما می‌خواهیم که روایت‌تان را با ما در میان بگذارید تا بتوانیم پرونده مستندی تهیه کنیم برای اثبات این موضوع که این رفتار تبعیض‌آمیز باید خاتمه یابد. هر چه مثال‌های بیشتری داشته باشیم، پرونده‌هایمان برای تقاضای تغییر قانون در وزارت خزانه‌داری و پایان‌دادن به تبعیض‌های بانک آمریکا، محکم‌تر می‌شود.

داستان خود را این‌جا به اشتراک بگذارید

این را بدانید که ما از تلاش برای شما بازنخواهیم ایستاد؛ خواه در برابر وزارت خزانه‌داری دولت ترامپ باشد، خواه بانک آمریکا، یا هر کس دیگری که به جامعه ایرانی در آمریکا آسیب وارد کند.

با احترام،
جمال عبدی
رئیس شورای ملی ایرانیان آمریکا

گزینه کمک‌های مالی

NIAC Calls for Bank of America to Stop Closures of Iranian American Bank Accounts

فارسی

For years, Iranian Americans have had their bank accounts shuttered as a direct result of their Iranian national origin or heritage. This is a form of discrimination that is profoundly damaging, throwing individuals into financial limbo while they wait to see if and when the bank will release their life savings. If you have faced discrimination from a bank account or had your account frozen, consider sharing your story so that we can build a documented case for why these discriminatory actions need to halt. 

Banks cite this as precautionary efforts to abide by U.S. sanctions that prohibit individuals from operating bank accounts in Iran. While not technically required by law, many of these banks judge that the risk of running afoul of sanctions outweighs the risk of engaging in discrimination against Iranian Americans. 

This is why NIAC is petitioning the Department of Treasury for a formal rule change to license Americans to operate bank accounts from Iran. We believe that we can change this rule and end these bank’s discriminatory actions against our community. 

A significant majority of complaints we have received come as a result of actions from Bank of America. Despite multiple efforts since 2014 by NIAC to engage Bank of America to fix their policies, Bank of America continues to engage in account closures of Iranian Americans.

That is why NIAC has again sent a letter to Bank of America clarifying that sanctions do not obligate them to close bank accounts of individuals ordinarily resident in the United States, while holding the option open to take legal action to protect the interests of Iranian Americans and bring an end to their discriminatory treatment at Bank of America.

Know that NIAC will not stop fighting for you, whether we are up against Trump’s Treasury, Bank of America, or anyone else harming Iranian Americans.


Download a PDF of the letter here

July 19, 2019

Dear Mr. Leitch:

I am writing on behalf of the National Iranian American Council (“NIAC”), the largest grassroots organization in the United States representing the interests of Iranian Americans, regarding Bank of America’s treatment of its U.S. customers of Iranian origin. Over the past several years, we have received persistent questions and complaints from Iranian Americans and Iranian nationals in the U.S. whose bank accounts have been abruptly closed by Bank of America – in some cases without notice and in other cases even when documents requested by the bank were submitted by these customers that confirmed that the provision of services to such customers was lawful. Our review of this material indicates that Bank of America has adopted policies and practices that are clearly discriminatory towards customers of Iranian origin. We therefore request that Bank of America immediately remediate its internal policies and procedures to ensure that such discrimination ceases. Absent such steps, we reserve the right to pursue litigation regarding this matter.

While we understand from past engagement that Bank of America cites U.S. sanctions on Iran as the basis for its actions, the actions undertaken by Bank of America are unwarranted as a matter of law. U.S. sanctions targeting Iran do not prohibit Bank of America from holding accounts on behalf of customers of Iranian origin. Instead, U.S. sanctions prohibit Bank of America from servicing “Iranian accounts,” which are defined for purposes of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (“ITSR”), 31 C.F.R. Part 560, as “accounts of persons ordinarily resident in Iran, except when such persons are not located in Iran.” Unless Bank of America has indication that a customer is a person ordinarily resident in Iran and is physically located in Iran, Bank of America has no legal obligation to deny services to a given customer under the ITSR.  

We find it egregious that Bank of America would treat its customers of Iranian origin in such a manner rather than appropriately tailoring its compliance policies and procedures in such a way as to ensure it conforms its conduct to the demands of U.S. law while respecting its customers’ rights and providing its customers exceptional service. We remain interested in discussing steps that Bank of America can take to ensure that its customers of Iranian origin are not treated in a discriminatory manner by the bank, and we reserve the right to pursue litigation to resolve this issue if necessary. 

We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

 

Jamal Abdi
President, National Iranian American Council

NIAC Sends Letter to Bank of America Demanding Immediate End to Bank Account Closures

Washington, D.C. — Today, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) delivered a letter to Bank of America CEO, Brian T. Moynihan, concerning the alarming amount of customers of Iranian descent that have contacted NIAC because they have had their bank accounts suspended or closed, and funds wrongfully withheld, without any advance notice or recourse.

Four years ago, NIAC contacted Bank of America in May 2014 concerning the same issue of discrimination against customers of Iranian descent. We noted that NIAC had successfully partnered with the Bank of Hawaii to come to a solution which would allow the bank to comply with existing U.S. sanction laws, while also delivering outstanding customer service to all bank customer, regardless of national origin.

It is deeply concerning to NIAC that after four years, Bank of America has still not taken the concerns of the Iranian-American community seriously and has continued its problematic policy of enforcing sanctions to the point of discrimination and disparate treatment towards certain customers because they’re Iranian.

Ordinary Iranian-Americans who have had to navigate confusing U.S. sanction laws know full well the complex maze which makes compliance exceedingly difficult. But sanction laws do not outweigh the civil rights and liberties of the customers of an entity like Bank of America. And sanctions certainly do not excuse or justify discriminatory conduct by U.S. banks and corporations. It is Bank of America’s duty to strike a proper balance between compliance with sanctions and strict observance of civil rights laws.

If Bank of America finds U.S. sanction laws unduly burdensome and difficult to navigate, they will find a willing partner in NIAC to help voice these concerns to the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC). But discriminatorily targeting customers on the basis of nationality cannot be justified by the complexities of sanction laws.

In our letter, we cited an example of an Iranian national who was living in the United States with his wife, on valid visas, and had his Bank of America account abruptly suspended. The customer and his pregnant wife had several thousands of dollars withheld from them by Bank of America for about three months before they contacted NIAC to intervene, desperate because they needed the money for medical appointments and treatment. After about a week of discussions with NIAC, Bank of America finally remitted the customer’s money to him without so much as an apology for withholding the money without any legal justification whatsoever and causing significant hardship to their family.

This pattern of conduct by Bank of America is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. NIAC calls on Bank of America to immediately suspend this discriminatory practice of bank account closures for customers of Iranian descent, and come to the table to work in partnership with NIAC to develop a solution that will ensure compliance with U.S. sanction laws, while avoiding discriminating against customers of Iranian descent living in the United States.

NIAC will continue to actively monitor this situation and Bank of America’s conduct. We fervently hope that we are able to work in partnership with Bank of America and reach a comprehensive  resolution to this matter, but NIAC also owes a duty to the Iranian-American community and is committed to protecting the community against flagrant acts of discrimination. NIAC will utilize all tools at its disposal to ensure that we meet this commitment, including large-scale public campaigns and litigation, if necessary.

Update on Account Closures at Bank of America

WASHINGTON DC – Bank of America has issued a response to NIAC’s request for the bank to stop closing accounts of Iranians located in the US. In its letter, Bank of America states that Iranian accounts are being terminated in order to uphold the bank’s “due diligence” obligations under US sanctions law.

Over the past few months, NIAC has received a significant number of communications from Iranians across the US – primarily Iranian students studying at US universities – informing us that Bank of America is closing or restricting their bank accounts with no prior notification or explanation.

NIAC delivered a letter to Bank of America’s CEO seeking resolution to this issue and urging the bank to halt all further account closures, provide prior notification to Iranian account-holders that their accounts are being shuttered, and reevaluate current policies to ensure that the bank is not discriminating against Iranians on the basis of their national-origin. NIAC also joined with several other Iranian-American organizations – including PAAIA, IABA, and Pars Equality Center – to send a separate letter requesting Bank of America to reevaluate its policies.

Bank of America responded to NIAC’s initial letter last week, stating that the account closures were performed in strict compliance with US sanctions law and that no accounts were closed without prior notice. Bank of America’s letter also states that the bank does not discriminate on the basis of national-origin.

Under US sanctions law, banks are indeed required to restrict access to accounts if they have reason to believe the account-holder is “ordinarily resident” in Iran and in Iran. However, in all of the communications NIAC has received, the Iranian account-holders whose accounts were restricted were living in the US and had not been in violation of US sanctions law. In all cases, the affected individuals were able to get their accounts re-opened by providing proof of US residency – though only after weeks of having no access to a bank account.

NIAC believes Bank of America can do far more to ensure that the bank is not taking an overly-broad approach to sanctions enforcement. NIAC has helped facilitate solutions in previous cases where banks had unduly closed Iranian accounts.

NIAC is also now taking steps to address this broader problem with how sanctions are being interpreted and implemented under US sanctions law.

The Obama Administration has long made it clear that expanding people-to-people ties with Iran is a significant and enduring US interest. In that vein, the Treasury Department issued a new General License this past March aimed at fostering academic exchanges between US and Iranian universities. In past years, too, the State Department has also made significant efforts to facilitate greater access to student visas for Iranians, which has led to an increase in the number of Iranian students studying at US universities.

NIAC has been in contact with the Treasury and State Department regarding this issue, believing that both can play a vital role in ensuring that banks implement US sanctions law in a manner that does not conflict with the US’s broader public diplomacy goals.

NIAC has proposed that steps be taken to more clearly define what banks must do – and what they are not required to do – in order to uphold their “due diligence” obligations under US sanctions law. Such a step could include redefining “due diligence” in such a way so that banks are encouraged to contact account-holders prior to closing their accounts. In this way, Iranian account-holders would first be able to provide proof of US residence without having to deal with the hardships associated with a restricted bank account.

In the absence of a change like this, US objectives vis-à-vis Iran will continue to compete with each other, as the perception that US sanctions are targeting Iranian students due to their national-origin (as is the case with Bank of America) will serve to undermine administration efforts to build goodwill with ordinary Iranians.

NIAC Urges Bank of America to Halt Iranian Account Closures

Press Release - For Immediate Release

Washington DC — The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) expresses serious concern over the recent string of bank account closures at Bank of America that target Iranians and Iranian-Americans and urges Bank of America to halt all further account closures and to revise its enforcement policy in order to provide necessary notice and recourse to its customers of Iranian descent. NIAC is alarmed that the over-enforcement of US sanctions targeting Iran is leading to discriminatory policies against Iranians and Iranian-Americans.

Over the past month, NIAC has received dozens of communications from Iranians and Iranian-Americans who have had their accounts closed at Bank of America without prior notice.

“Bank of America’s recent actions are disturbing and suggest that it has resorted to profiling and discrimination to comply with US sanctions against Iran,” said Jamal Abdi, NIAC’s Policy Director. “This shows once again the harmful consequences of the US’s overly broad sanctions regime, including for Iranians and Iranian-Americans here in the United States.”

Under the sanctions, US banks are barred from providing banking services to Iran, including to residents of Iran when they are in Iran. Because of the strict penalties associated with violating the sanctions, banks often over-enforce the sanctions by closing or suspending accounts of persons of Iranian descent, without prior notice and on the barest of evidence.

Recent closures, including the ones at Bank of America, have especially targeted Iranian students studying in the United States, many of whom rely exclusively on their bank accounts for funds.

“It is unfortunate that at the same time the US government seeks to promote student exchanges between the US and Iran, its sanctions policies work to undercut the goodwill it is trying to create,” said Abdi. “Subjecting Iranian students to the discriminatory practices of US banks, who are themselves trying to comply with US law, is a poor introduction to the United States.”

Bank of America’s action follows a number of similar cases, including that of TCF Bank which is now under investigation for potential civil rights violations in Minnesota. Last month, Bank of Hawaii quickly worked to restore closed Iranian students’ bank accounts it had closed and put in place a solid compliance program to ensure no repeat instances.

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The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the interests of the Iranian-American community. We accomplish our mission by supplying the resources, knowledge and tools to enable greater civic participation by Iranian Americans and informed decision-making by policymakers.