NIAC Applauds Protection of Persepolis Tablets in Chicago

Persepolis Tablets

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Contact: Jamal Abdi
Phone: 202-386-6408
Email: jabdi@niacouncil.org

Washington, DC – National Iranian American Council applauds the decision of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois protecting the Persepolis Tablets and other ancient Iranian artifacts from being awarded as damages in a court proceeding.

“This is a victory that protects the culture and history of the Iranian people so that these antiquities can be appreciated by everyone,” said NIAC President Trita Parsi. “Iran’s heritage is owned by the people, it is not the property of Iran’s government and it cannot be treated as currency.”

The Persepolis Tablets provide the world’s only first-hand window into daily life in Persepolis 2,500 years ago. But these and thousands of ancient Persian artifacts in the United States were under the threat of seizure as part of a judgement against the Iranian government.

Since 2006, NIAC has been a leading voice in the Iranian-American community’s efforts to protect the Persepolis Tablets and other Persian antiquities in the United States.  NIAC filed an amicus brief in the case in 2008 and also advocated to the White House as well as in Congress to protect the tablets.

The items at University of Chicago and other universities and museums were under threat as part of civil suit in response to a 1997 Hamas attack. While the court found that Iran’s government was responsible for the attack by allegedly providing material support to the bombers, plaintiffs have been unable to collect the entirety of a $400 million judgment awarded in damages. Thus, lawyers attempted to seize Persian artifacts on display at various museums, including the Persepolis Tablets collection that has been at University of Chicago since the 1920s.

On Friday, the Judge presiding over the case in Illinois ruled that the Iranian government did not own the artifacts at the Chicago Field Museum and that the artifacts at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute were loaned for scholarship instead of commercial purposes so could not be seized. While the decision can now be appealed, NIAC hopes that this will definitively protect these items and will continue to ensure this is the case.

“The Iranian-American community supports justice for all victims of the Iranian government, and indeed nobody has suffered more than the Iranian people,” said Parsi. “But going after museums and seizing antiquities representing the history and identity of the Iranian people would have meant using one injustice to perpetuate another injustice that would have set a devastating precedent.”

In addition to the Persepolis Tablets at the University of Chicago, Persian artifacts at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, the University of Michigan’s Museum of Art and Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, the Detroit Institute of Arts, Harvard University, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Previous decisions have been made in those cases to protect those items as well.

NIAC Member Survey Shows Growing Concern about War and Sanctions

Over the last decade, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) has been steadily growing in size, strength and political influence. With approximately 4,000 dues-paying members and 43,000 supporters who subscribe to our emails and attend our events, NIAC is the largest Iranian-American grassroots organization. I’d like to emphasize the word “grassroots.” Why? Well, because this word means a lot to me personally and to the organization as a whole.

To put it simply, NIAC could not exist without the support and guidance of our grassroots membership. Not only do they write and/or call in to regularly offer feedback and suggestions, but their financial support provides approximately 70% of our operating budget.

Perhaps what is most valuable is our members’ role in shaping our agenda on an annual basis. They do this by participating in our members-only survey. The results help us determine how best to focus our efforts and resources as well as how to prioritize our policy positions. And, the results of this year’s survey are clear.

Concern about war with Iran has only intensified since our last member survey, and our members overwhelmingly chose to keep preventing war as NIAC’s top priority. Concern about sanctions aimed at the entire Iranian population has also grown, with the issue rising to the second priority. NIAC members made supporting human rights in Iran, supporting the civil rights of Iranian Americans, and promoting Iranian cultural heritage the third, fourth, and fifth priorities, respectively.

Here’s more on the issues:

Preventing War: NIAC members emphatically selected preventing war and promoting a peaceful solution to the US-Iran conflict NIAC’s top priority. 74% made it their top priority, and 15% made it their second highest priority. Asked to rank their priorities 1 through 5, preventing war averaged 1.4, with 1.0 being the highest possible number.

Opposing Broad Economic Sanctions: NIAC members made opposing broad economic sanctions that hurt the Iranian people their second priority, with an average rank of 2.5. 86% of NIAC members “oppose sanctions aimed at Iran’s entire economy,” while only 7% disagreed with this position.

Supporting Human Rights: Supporting human rights in Iran was ranked as the third highest priority with an average ranking of 2.9. A strong majority further supported targeted sanctions against human rights abusers in the Iranian government, and NIAC will continue to support targeted human rights sanctions.

Supporting Civil Rights of Iranian Americans: Supporting the civil rights of Iranian Americans was selected as the fourth highest priority, just behind human rights in Iran, with an average ranking of 3.1.

Protecting Heritage: NIAC members ranked protecting Iranian cultural heritage, such as the Persepolis Tablets, as NIAC’s fifth priority for the year ahead. The issue ranked 3.8.

437 dues-paying members participated in this year’s survey, making it larger than the sample sizes of other surveys done of our community at-large. Although not a scientific survey of the entire community (as the survey measures the views of our active members), past NIAC member surveys have corresponded with the results of scientific community-wide surveys.

Based on the results below, the year ahead promises to be busy and, at times, difficult. But, by unifying as a community to take action and be heard, no hurdle is too high. We all know there is power in numbers, so we look forward to working together to accomplish our goals and increase our community’s political influence.

2012 Highest Priority

2012 Second Priority 2.JPG

2012 priorities ranked

Human Rights Sanctions

2012 Broad Sanctions

 

 

 

Update on Persepolis Tablets, Diplomacy and “Redlines”

It has been a whirlwind week on Iran policy as the U.S. gears up for new talks with Iran. We accomplished a number of goals: we got protections for the Persepolis Tablets, there will be votes to make clear there is no authorization for war with Iran and to support diplomacy, and there was a rejection of shifting the redline for war and placing a “zero enrichment” ultimatum on U.S.-Iran talks. Below is a summary of the week’s activities and some of the immediate next steps we are working on.

Protecting the Persepolis Tablets

First, our recent efforts to protect the Persepolis Tablets from a Senate sanctions bill were successful! Thanks to thousands of letters you sent to your Senators, and to our direct consultations with the Senate and affected parties, the sanctions bill has been amended to no longer put the Persepolis Tablets in jeopardy. This doesn’t mean our work is complete—we still need to fix the law once and for all to ensure these artifacts are never seized from universities and museums—but for today, we have prevented the worst from happening.

While we still oppose the broad sanctions bill, we also succeeded in getting the Senate to add language stating that there is no authorization for war with Iran.

Zero enrichment and the war “redline”

Thanks to the overwhelming response from everyone who called their Representative this week regarding H.Res.568 (and who sent letters over the past two months), the lead Democratic sponsor directly addressed the issues we raised.

Howard Berman (D-CA) went on the record to clarify there is no authorization for war and that “nuclear weapons capability” does not mean zero enrichment. This is a critical point—this resolution was the top lobbying ask for groups opposed to diplomatic resolution. “Nuclear weapons capable” was supposed to be code for “zero enrichment,” which is a diplomatic nonstarter for an inspections-based solution. It also was supposed to lower the President’s threshold for war with Iran from nuclear-armed to nuclear-capable.

With this week’s action, Congress is closer to the Obama Administration than to the Netanyahu government on the important question of what is our end-goal to resolve the nuclear dispute. We still oppose this resolution, which did pass overwhelmingly, but these on-the-record comments and clarifications provide serious, much needed political support for diplomacy to succeed.

Opposing war and supporting diplomacy in the Defense bill

Finally, there are two important amendments that will get a vote as part of the annual Defense bill in the coming days. The first, sponsored by John Conyers (D-MI), Ron Paul (R-TX), Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Walter Jones (R-SC), would contain binding language that the bill does not authorize war with Iran. The second, offered by Barbara Lee (D-CA) would require the appointment of a special envoy for Iran diplomacy—one of the provisions in H.R.4173, which NIAC has strongly supported. There are, however, dangerous amendments regarding military preparations that will also get a vote which we are strongly opposing.

We are organizing grassroots action to tell the House to vote YES on the No War amendment and the Pro-Diplomacy amendment, and to vote NO on a pro-war amendment. Please send a letter to your Representative by clicking here.

 

 

 

Judge: Harvard Can Keep Persian Artifacts

The Harvard Crimson — After a prolonged legal dispute, a U.S. district court judge ruled Thursday that Harvard can keep a collection of Persian tablets, defeating an attempt to obtain the artifacts in order to collect damages against the Iranian government.

Jenny Rubin, who is leading the effort, is part of a group of four Americans who were injured in a triple suicide attack in 1997 in Jerusalem. Following the attacks, they sued the Iranian government for damages, claiming that Iranian support for Hamas—who claimed responsibility for the attack—made Tehran liable for damages.

An American court ruled that Iran owed the victims of the attack $423.5 million dollars, but Iran failed to pay.

In order to claim damages, Rubin launched an effort to gain custody of Iranian antiquities held in museums at Harvard and other American universities. Rubin argues that because the antiquities may be the property of the Iranian government she has a right to the items as part of the damages.

But Federal Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. has now ruled in favor of the University, writing that the plaintiffs did not show enough evidence to back their claim that the Persian antiques collection at the Peabody Museum legally belonged to the government of Iran.

“As a general matter, establishing that a particular item was unlawfully exported or removed from Iran is not equivalent to showing that it now should be regarded as property of Iran subject to levy and execution,” O’Toole wrote.

“And as a particular matter, the plaintiffs simply are unable to establish that any item in the possession of the Museums, whether from Persepolis or elsewhere, is rightly considered to be the property of Iran.”

In her suit, Rubin sought to claim a set of six limestone relief fragments that were recovered from the city of Persepolis in ancient Persia.

“We feel that cultural items should be appreciated by everybody. They shouldn’t be seized. There’s a need for justice and this is not the way to justice,” Jamal D. Abdi, policy director for the National Iranian American Council said.

Abdi said he was encouraged by the ruling, which he said was an important part of preserving the Iranian cultural heritage.

“They’d [the relics] be taken out of the museums. The [defense] lawyer suggested they’d be auctioned on Ebay,” Abdi said.

“Another strategy would be “destroying them to make the remaining relics more valuable. They’d be commercial items, or be destroyed—treated like commercial commodities.”

Harvard is not the only university facing a suit of this nature.

Rubin has sued several American universities that house Persian artifacts, including the University of Chicago, which has an extensive collection of Persian clay tablets.

In March the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed a lower court decision that would have handed over the artifacts to Rubin, but the case may continue on appeal.

Rubin’s legal effort has posed a significant risk to university collections, and Thursday’s ruling is an encouraging sign for those who wish to protect antiques on display at university museums.

 

 

 

Court Ruling Protects Persian Artifacts in Massachusetts

Washington, DC – A ruling by a Massachusetts District Court yesterday will protect ancient Persian artifacts housed at Harvard University and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts from being seized as part of an attempt collect damages against the Iranian government.

In his ruling, District Judge George O’Toole, determined that the antiquities housed at Harvard University and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts are not the property of the Iranian government and thus cannot be seized as part of a court case against that government.

While the decision was a victory for the university and museum community and Iranian Americans who do not want to see priceless cultural relics confiscated and auctioned off to the highest bidder, it does not apply to artifacts outside of Massachusetts. 

Collections are also being targeted across the country in separate cases in Illinois, California, and Michigan.  It will most likely be years before these cases are decided. 

The National Iranian American Council has led efforts on behalf of the Iranian-American community to protect the Persian artifacts and supports amending the law to protect cultural property such as the Persepolis tablets.

“Today’s ruling will help protect Persian relics in Massachusetts, but elsewhere around the country the Persepolis Tablets remain threatened,” said NIAC President Trita Parsi.  “The only way to ensure the Persepolis Tablets are protected is if Congress fixes the legal loophole that put these items in jeopardy in the first place.”

An amendment to close the legal loophole exists, but has not been passed by Congress.  NIAC continues to press for the Persepolis amendment, which would protect all cultural items held by universities, museums and libraries, to be passed into law.

NIAC has also requested the White House’s intervention in order to protect the Persepolis tablets, and has submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the Iranian-American community to the court to ensure the Iranian-American community’s heritage is protected.

 

 

 

PARSA CF Awards Major Grants to Civic Engagement Organizations

PARSA Community FoundationFollowing its grants to IAAB and IHF, and as a part of its Mehrgan 2010 Grant Cycle, PARSA Community Foundation is pleased to announce a series of strategic grants to Iranian-American organizations promoting civic engagement and civil liberties protection. These organizations have taken on the challenge of educating and representing the Iranian community on key issues that affect us all but are too easy to ignore until we encounter a serious problem. In order to facilitate integration, have our voices heard and protect our rights, our community must dramatically increase its civic participation through voter registration, advocacy, and taking positions on immigration reform, anti-discrimination and anti-defamation. To these ends, PARSA CF has awarded six grants, a total of $571,000, to four enterprising nonprofits:  NIAC, IABA, NLSCA and BAIVOTER.

National Iranian American Council (NIAC), recipient of three grants totaling $446,000, is the largest Iranian-America grassroots organization and a well-known name on Capitol Hill.   Among NIAC’s many accomplishments is the role they played in removing sanctions on vital online communication tools like MSN Messenger, Facebook, and Youtube to ensure the free flow of information in Iran, correcting the National Geographic Society’s 8th edition maps to read “Persian Gulf” instead of “Arabian Gulf,” and defeating a Congressional resolution that would have paved the way for a US-Iran war. NIAC has built a base of paying members whom it surveys regularly for public opinion as a basis of its communications with U.S. Government and U.S. media.

NIAC’s paid membership program demonstrates broad community support and has made its operation sustainable through the years, a rare achievement for an Iranian-American organization. NIAC has received two previous grants from PARSA for $70,000, supporting voter registration and community organizer training, and these three new grants will benefit its long-term civic integration efforts:

  • The first grant of $182,000 was awarded in support of an initiative titled “Building Civic Participation and Leadership,” which will promote community civic engagement and the development of young leaders.  The grant will allow NIAC to work on an enhanced series of democracy education workshops, voter registration drives, increased student fellowship offerings, and the development of student networks at college campuses nationwide. These efforts will empower Iranian Americans to take an increasingly active role in creating their own future.
  • The award of $153,000 is for the “Cultural Heritage: Preserving and Protecting Our Rich Traditions” initiative, a comprehensive media and education campaign with presentations in major U.S. cities in the form of “museum nights.” Raising awareness about the Persepolis tablets, this initiative will build broader community support for NIAC’s efforts to keep the tablets in the academic domain rather than be auctioned off in a complicated legal battle.  The goal of the initiative is to engage the Iranian American community and the broader American public in saving these tablets from falling into private hands and protecting a part of humanity’s ancient and treasured past. PARSA CF has been a long-time supporter of the Persepolis Fortification Archive and feels that increasing broader community awareness and support is a key to preserving this significant piece of our history and culture.
  • Finally, PARSA awarded $111,000 to NIAC’s “Building a Strong Community” initiative which has received equal matching funds from the Nathan Cummings Foundation, a prominent Jewish-American philanthropic organization. NIAC plans to build strong ties to organizations in the Jewish-American community for future action and collaboration. PARSA CF lauds NIAC for recognizing the importance of building broad coalitions to achieve common goals.

“We are extremely grateful that the PARSA Community Foundation has made such a significant contribution toward building the civic participation and engagement of the Iranian-American community through these grants.  We are excited that the community will benefit and be advanced as a result of the Foundation’s leadership” said Dr. Trita Parsi, President of NIAC.

Anti-defamation is an example of an issue that is best addressed in coalition with other communities’ anti-defamation efforts and to this end PARSA CF has awarded a $50,000 grant to the Iranian American Bar Association (IABA) for a fellowship with the Asian Law Caucus (ALC) Korematsu Institute. The fellowship will address the negative stereotypes of communities post 9/11, focusing on identifying, addressing, and shifting such depictions through a range of policy, organizing and legal work, including, but not limited to, the defamation of these communities in the media. The program will do outreach to underserved communities affected by the post 9/11 climate, including the Iranian-American community.

The project allows IABA to leverage its existing nation-wide pro bono and clinic program.  It also gives IABA the resources to identify and target national legislation which may have direct and indirect consequences for the Iranian-American community, and to address them accordingly and expeditiously.

In the wake of 9/11 and current war on terror, many innocent, law abiding, and proud Americans of Iranian heritage have been subject to various forms of discrimination at school, in the workplace, and at the hands of different levels of government. Sometimes this discrimination and lack of equal access was purposeful, sometimes inherent in the system and without malice.  While in the past IABA has attempted to guide its members and the community at large through these issues to the greatest extent possible, for a voluntary bar association to do so without a permanent and salaried attorney focused on such issues has been an extremely difficult task.  With the PARSA grant towards establishing a permanent position at the Korematsu Institute at ALC, IABA can now finally reach its goal of establishing such a position under the auspices of the Asia Law Caucus” said Salman Elmi, board member, IABA.

PARSA CF has awarded a $25,000 grant to the National Legal Sanctuary for Community Advancement (NLSCA), the organization that has represented more than 3200 post-9/11 clients since 2001, with 68% of clients being of Iranian descent. NLSCA’s goal now, the first of its kind, is to directly address policy change by examining how post 9/11 policies may have medically/psychologically affected this targeted community.  They will draw from, and be guided by, the successful Japanese-American redress movement that led to a Presidential apology and restitution for the grave violations of Japanese-American constitutional rights.  In cooperation with Institute for the Study of Psychosocial Trauma (ISPT) and Institute for Redress and Recovery (IRR), NLSCA will continue to document ongoing cases, while determining the nexus between the medical/psychological impact and existing post 9/11 policy enforcement. This collaborative effort between human rights and legal services, coupled with scholarly and clinically-applied research, will expand NLSCA’s impact on a more comprehensive level for both the Iranian-American community, and broader community at large.

Lastly, in support of voter registration, a cause that PARSA CF believes to be vital to our community’s strength, we have awarded a $50,000 grant to the Bay Area Iranian-America Voter Association (BAIVOTER). The grant will be used to build a database of registered voters from the 20 most populous states, and to analyze the data to find the last names of registered voters whose place of birth is Iran. The result will be a very important list of distinct Iranian-American last names that can be used to extract registered voters of Iranian descent. This body of knowledge will be valuable in advancing Iranian-American influence in the political process.

PARSA CF applauds these ground breaking organizations and encourages every Iranian and Iranian-American living in the U.S. to use and promote the tools and resources provided by these groups for improving their civic engagement and defending their civil liberties within our community. In order to fight for one’s own rights, one has to be willing to fight for everyone’s rights. Our community has benefited from the long history of diverse communities fighting to protect the rights of all U.S. citizens, and we hope that the Iranian American community will contribute significantly to this legacy.

 

 

 

Court Decision a Reprieve for Persian Artifacts

 

Persepolis TabletsWashington, DC –Iranian Americans and the museum community concerned about the possible seizure of precious Iranian artifacts won an important reprieve in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals today.

The decision addresses a court case in which plaintiffs are attempting to confiscate ancient Persian artifacts from the University of Chicago and the Chicago Field Museum to collect damages against Iran’s current government. The artifacts, ancient tablets from Persepolis, will be auctioned to the highest bidder if the plaintiffs win the case.

The appeals court reversed a lower court decision that refused to consider if the artifacts were immune from seizure under the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). That law states that items used by foreign governments for non-commercial purposes are protected from lawsuits, but Iran’s government initially refused to assert sovereign immunity.

The higher court’s decision found that the sovereign immunity exemption of the FSIA must be considered for the items, sending the matter back to the lower court to determine whether the antiquities qualify as non-commercial.

The artifacts still remain in jeopardy even if the court decides they are non-commercial due to potential loopholes in a separate law, the 2002 Terrorism Risk Insurance Act. NIAC has called for the law to be amended to resolve ambiguities that put cultural items at risk.

“The Persepolis tablets and the cultural heritage of Iran belong to the Iranian people, not the Iranian government,” said NIAC President Trita Parsi. “Justice isn’t served by targeting the heritage and history of a people.”

In addition to Persian artifacts in Chicago, collections are also being targeted in separate cases against Harvard University and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

It will likely be years before the courts make a final decision determining if the Persian antiquities will be auctioned away. And despite today’s ruling, the ultimate outcome of the cases remains far from assured. The only way to be certain that the Persian artifacts – as well as other antiquities across the country – will be protected is to change the law to make cultural items explicitly exempt from attempts to collect damages against foreign governments.

NIAC has led the efforts of the Iranian-American community to protect the Persian artifacts and supports amending the law to protect cultural property like the Persepolis tablets.

“This ruling is a positive step, but it does not resolve the issue,” said Jamal Abdi, NIAC’s Policy Director. “The only way to ensure that no one’s culture or heritage will ever come under attack again is to close the legal loopholes that have put these items in jeopardy.”

NIAC has strongly supported an amendment to the law that has been proposed in Congress but has yet to move forward. The amendment clarifies that all cultural items held by universities, museums, and libraries cannot be subject to seizure as part of a judgment against a foreign country. NIAC has also called directly for the White House to intervene to protect the Persepolis tablets, and has submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the Iranian-American community to the court to ensure the community’s heritage is protected.

 

 

 

Our 2011 New Year’s Resolutions

NIAC 2011 Goals

Welcome back from the holiday break.  As we begin 2011, we at NIAC stopped to reflect upon the years past and brainstorm about the year ahead.  A strong nine years in, we have a lot to be proud of and thankful for. We’ve crossed many roads, jumped many hurdles and we’ve only just begun.

This past year was successful on many fronts, including:

2010 Accomplishments

Check MarkHelped remove sanctions on vital online communication tools like MSN Messenger, Facebook and YouTube to ensure the free flow of information to Iran.

Check MarkBlocked a Congressional resolution green-lighting Israeli strikes on Iran.

Check MarkEffectively opposed and stopped legislation that would bar every Iranian from entering the United States.

Check MarkAdvanced targeted measures against Iranian government human rights abuses.

Check MarkHalted offensive ad campaign that equated all Iranians with Ahmadinejad.

Even with these accomplishments, we know there’s a lot of work that lies ahead.  So, we’ve rolled up our sleeves and, like many of you, decided to create our list of New Year’s Resolutions, which will help guide us as we embark on what promises to be a busy, but productive year.  In 2011 we resolve to:

2011 New Year’s Resolutions

Check MarkContinually listen to and involve our members wherever possible, in order to remain the true grassroots organization that we are and were founded to be.

Check MarkKeep our members and supporters informed about breaking news in the political sphere, through our newsletter, blog and event coverage.

Check MarkContinue to serve as a resource to the Iranian-American community, providing the educational tools, such as workshops and fellowships, which empower our community and enable us to be active members of civic society.

Check MarkStay relevant in an ever-changing political scene through our collaborations and participation in policy-related and political events.

Check MarkTake strategic action to accomplish our organizational goals.

By sticking to our New Year’s Resolutions, and with the continued support of our members, we know our goals can be achieved:

2011 Goals

Check MarkSupport the pro-democracy movement in Iran by blocking renewed efforts for a US-Iran war.

Check MarkObtain a multiple-entry student visa for Iranians to study in the U.S.

Check MarkSecure an independent UN human rights monitor for Iran.

 Check MarkProtect the Persepolis Tablets and other priceless Iranian artifacts from the threat of seizure.

 Check MarkBlock new broad, indiscriminate sanctions that punish ordinary Iranians.

 

 

 

NIAC Members Vote Overwhelmingly to Oppose War, Support Human Rights

Key Results

View All Results

The National Iranian American Council recently conducted its annual Member survey to help establish NIAC’s priorities for the coming year. The 2010 NIAC Member Survey has a larger sample size than most standard scientific polls for populations of one million people. Nearly 500 NIAC members responded to the survey, both online and by mail between October 1st and 27th. While NIAC membership surveys are not scientific, past surveys have consistently corresponded to the views of the majority of Iranian Americans, as demonstrated by statistical surveys of the Iranian-American community conducted by universities and professional pollsters.

Overall, NIAC Members expressed support for the positions NIAC has taken and the work NIAC is currently doing. Indeed, the most consistent call for change came from a sizeable minority of members who said they would like to see NIAC do more in some areas. One of the key benefits of NIAC membership is the ability to help set the direction of the organization, and NIAC will seek to expand activities in the areas indicated by the Member survey, as resources permit.

Ranking Priorities: Across the board, survey respondents overwhelmingly viewed the issues NIAC works on as important—nearly every issue polled was designated as important by at least 90% of the respondents. NIAC Members on the whole continue to be characterized by deep concern for human rights; opposition to war and support for a peaceful settlement of US-Iran tensions; pride in their Iranian heritage and resistance to anti-Iranian discrimination; and opposed to sanctions that hurt the Iranian people.

Given the strong concern about so many issues, NIAC also asked its members to rank their priorities. On average, NIAC members made opposing war and finding a peaceful solution to the U.S.-Iran conflict their top priority. Supporting human rights in Iran and opposing broad sanctions were ranked a close second and third, respectively. Fighting discrimination against Iranian Americans was ranked fourth, and was followed by protecting the Persepolis Tablets and fixing the single-entry visa issue for Iranian students. However, it is worth noting again that at least 9 out of 10 members viewed NIAC’s work in each of these areas as important.

Preventing a US/Iran war: By every measure, preventing a US-Iran war and finding a peaceful solution to US-Iran tensions was rated the top priority for NIAC members. 91% of members said that preventing a US-Iran war and finding a peaceful solution to US-Iran tensions should be a “very important” priority for NIAC, with another 7% saying it is “somewhat important.” Only 0.2% of respondents did not support this position. 74% of respondents said NIAC “focuses on this issue about the right amount,” while another 11% said NIAC does not focus on this issue enough and 8% said NIAC focuses on this issue too much. As a result, NIAC will continue to make preventing a US-Iran war and finding a peaceful solution to US-Iran tensions its highest priority.

Supporting human rights: 81% of NIAC members said supporting human rights in Iran is a “very important” organizational goal, while 15% said it is “somewhat important.” A small minority of members (1.7%) voted against NIAC advocating on this issue.

27% of respondents said NIAC should focus on human rights more, while 57% said NIAC focuses on it the right amount and 5% said NIAC focuses on it too much. Therefore, NIAC will continue and expand its efforts in support of human rights in Iran and will vigorously pursue this mission in a way that is complementary with preventing a US-Iran war.

Sanctions: 79% of respondents said that opposing broad economic sanctions that indiscriminately punish innocent Iranians is a very important issue, with 16% rating it “somewhat important.” Only 0.6% of respondents opposed this position.

68% of respondents viewed imposing targeted measures punishing Iranian government officials who have committed human rights abuses as “very important,” in addition to another 20% who said it is “somewhat important.” Only 2.5% of members said they did not support this position. These results reaffirm NIAC’s existing mandate to oppose broad sanctions and support easing pressure on the Iranian people while simultaneously supporting targeted measures narrowly aimed at Iranian human rights abusers.

Opposing discrimination: In the year since our last survey, NIAC has confronted two major instances of anti-Iranian discrimination in the US. NIAC won key victories in both cases by successfully opposing the STEP Act and forcing two Fox sports anchors to make an on-air apology after they made bigoted remarks about an Iranian basketball player. Opposing discrimination against Iranian Americans was designated as “very important” by 82% of NIAC members. Another 15% said it is “somewhat important.” Given this strong result, NIAC will continue to place a high priority on opposing discriminatory legislation and fighting negative portrayals of Iranian Americans in the media.

Heritage: NIAC is proud to honor, celebrate, and protect the four thousand year old heritage of Iran on behalf of Iranian Americans. Our accomplishments have included delivering the first-ever Congressional recognition of Norooz, which passed both the House and the Senate. The Norooz resolution and other measures recognizing Iranian heritage are viewed as “very important” for 59% of survey respondents and “somewhat important” by another 32%.

NIAC also places a high priority on protecting the Persepolis Tablets – priceless artifacts hosted at American museums and universities that provide a unique first-hand account of life in the Persian Empire. Protecting the Persepolis Tablets and other Persian artifacts under threat was considered “very important” by 68% of respondents and “somewhat important” by another 26%. Going forward, NIAC will continue to work to protect the Persepolis Tablets and other Persian artifacts under threat so our heritage will never again come under attack.

Immigration: NIAC’s immigration agenda in the past year has focused primarily on fixing the Single-Entry Visa Policy for Iranian students. This issue is seen as “very important” by 60% respondents and “somewhat important” by another 35%. NIAC has also supported efforts to pass the Dream Act, which is viewed as “very important” by 42% of respondents and “somewhat important” by 33%. Given these results, addressing the single-entry visa issue will continue to be NIAC’s top immigration priority.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s survey. NIAC will continue to seek feedback from its membership and the general Iranian-American community in order to continue to effectively advocate on its behalf.

Not a NIAC member? Don’t be left out – join the largest Iranian-American grassroots organizations today!

 

 

 

Inside Washington: NIAC’s Battle to Save the Persepolis Tablets

Washington, DC – The campaign to save the Persepolis Tablets is quietly gaining momentum, as NIAC and some of the nation’s top universities work to protect thousands of priceless cultural artifacts at risk of being seized by lawyers and auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Since 2006, NIAC has led the Iranian-American community’s efforts to protect the Persepolis Tablets, a unique collection that provides the world’s only first-hand window into daily life in Persepolis 2,500 years ago. We have fought on all fronts—in the media, the courts, the Congress, and even the White House—to protect these precious artifacts so that they remain available for everyone to enjoy and appreciate.
 
NIAC’s Legislative Strategy to Save the Persepolis Tablets

NIAC is focusing on the best approach to protect the Persepolis Tablets: permanently closing a loophole in U.S. law to permanently secure the Persepolis Tablets and all other priceless Persian artifacts in the United States. Successfully amending the law will ensure that no one’s culture or heritage will ever again come under attack in the courts.

To accomplish this, NIAC is working closely with many Members of Congress, especially those who represent museums with collections of Persian antiquities, such as Senator Roland Burris (D-IL). Senator Burris is the author of Persepolis Amendment, which would protect our heritage by clarifying that cultural artifacts cannot be seized to collect a judgment against a government.
 
NIAC has continued its campaign on Capitol Hill, holding key meetings and providing critical briefings to lay the groundwork to bring the Persepolis amendment to a vote, and ensure we emerge victorious.
 
Passing legislation is not as straightforward as it might seem. The most effective way to pass a small but significant piece of legislation, such as Burris’ Persepolis Amendment, is to attach it as an amendment to a larger piece of legislation, often called a “legislative vehicle.” Without a legislative vehicle, the Persepolis Amendment would have to be introduced as free standing legislation, which would be unlikely to receive a simple up or down vote. Congress, especially the Senate, has been bogged down by the health care debate and partisan battles, which has stalled even major pieces of legislation and led to a dearth of appropriate legislative vehicles.
 
Still, some measures – such as annual authorization bills – must be passed by Congress each year. These types of mandatory legislation provide the best legislative vehicles. Our strategy will be to pass the Persepolis Amendment as an amendment to an annual authorization act when Congress begins working on them in late spring. This is the best way to ensure the Persepolis amendment is signed into law and to permanently protect our heritage for future generations.
 

Join the Campaign

NIAC will continue its work to ensure we have educated Members of Congress between now and May. We will need our members to continue to get involved, and we will soon begin a reinvigorated grassroots campaign so that Senators know how important this issue is to their Iranian-American constituents. In order to protect the Persepolis Tablets, Iranian Americans must make their voices heard.
 
NIAC will be in touch with its members as this process moves forward, updating you on our progress and enlisting your voices when it is time to show the Senate the support for this measure that exists among the Iranian American community.
 
Soon, NIAC will also deploy the Persepolis Center, an online resource that will not only serve as a clearinghouse for background information about the Persepolis Tablets but will also provide a direct connection between NIAC and members with the latest updates on our efforts, new opportunities for members to mobilize, tools for contacting elected representatives, and profiles of endangered collections.
 
If we are successful in our efforts, the Iranian American community can take pride in protecting not only our own cultural artifacts, but all cultural artifacts from the threat of lawsuit in the U.S.

 

 

 

The Struggle to Save the Persepolis Artifacts Continues!

Washington DC – The struggle to protect the Persepolis tablets continues. For three and a half years, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) has been the vanguard Iranian-American organization in the struggle to save the Persepolis Collection from forever disappearing into the hands of unknown bidders. As a record of one of history’s great empires, the tablets are not only part of Iran’s rich heritage but belong to all people regardless of their cultural background. Unfortunately, an ongoing lawsuit brought by victims of a Hamas bombing threatens to dismantle the Collection and sell the pieces.

The Iranian-American community must work together to ensure that an irreplaceable part of everyone’s cultural history is protected. Last week, several Iranian-American organizations came together to shed light on this issue and inform our community of the efforts that have been made so far.

The court case over the Persepolis Collection is the latest chapter in an ongoing lawsuit, first filed in 2000, that seeks to collect on a judgment against the Iranian government for its role in supporting a Hamas bombing in Jerusalem in the 1980’s. While the plaintiffs won the original suit, it has so far been impossible for them to collect the $400 million dollars awarded in damages. Having found a loophole in a law recently passed by Congress, lawyers for the plaintiffs are seeking to seize and sell the artifacts that make up the Persepolis Collection. 
 
While we support the bombing victims endless pursuit of justice, targeting and potentially destroying the cultural heritage of the Iranian-American community does not bring justice to anyone.
 
NIAC has been, and continues to be, a tireless champion for the protection of the Persepolis Collection. Over the past three years, we have worked with our partners to keep these priceless artifacts off the auction block. Toward that goal, we’ve put in place a three-pronged strategy: (1) supporting the legal effort to protect these important pieces of world heritage; (2) spreading awareness through major media platforms; and (3) marshalling support from policymakers to intervene.
 
 
 
What NIAC is Doing About It
 
 
Standing up for our Heritage in Court
 
In early 2008, NIAC retained the law firm of Mayer Brown, a top firm in the United States, Asia and Europe, to prepare an amicus curiae to give the Iranian-American community an avenue to make their concerns heard about the lawsuit. NIAC’s amicus brief highlights the cultural importance of the artifacts, and argues that an important aspect of U.S. policy is the promotion of “cultural exchange among nations.” The amicus ensures that no judge will make a decision about this case without taking into consideration the views and concerns of the Iranian-American community.
 
 
Spreading the News: It’s Your Heritage Too
As a direct result of NIAC’s ongoing media campaign, major news outlets are now providing serious coverage of the case, and public support for the preservation of the tablets is growing. NIAC has published numerous articles, blog posts, and op-eds on the subject, in addition to our work with major news outlets to bring attention to the dangers facing the artifacts – as well as our side of the story, that is, how the court case affects ordinary Iranian Americans. The more accurate media attention given to this case, the more public support there will be for saving these artifacts.  NIAC is working aggressively to ensure that the American public supports this important cause.  After all, if these tablets are lost, it will not just be the Iranian-American community that is hurt–the whole world will suffer the loss. 
 
 

Finding a Solution: Make Government Work for Us

A legal loophole caused this problem, so legislation can ultimately fix it. That is why NIAC is working closely with members of Congress to pass legislation that will close the loophole that put these tablets in jeopardy in the first place. Through our partnership with many of the top universities and museums in the United States, NIAC is promoting a bill that will put a stop to the seizure of the Persepolis artifacts.
 
Last summer, NIAC and its allies came very close to passing such a bill. The Senate was considering an amendment that would put a stop to the pending lawsuit and declare cultural property as protected items that cannot be auctioned off. With our backing, this amendment gained the support of the State Department, the Chairmen of the Armed Services and Judiciary Committees, and all but one of the relevant Senators. Even the lone holdout shares our goal of protecting these artifacts. Now it’s our job to keep pressing the issue, and to push this bill across the finish line.
 

Where you come in…

Iranian Americans are united – we all agree that the Persepolis Collection must be protected. Our work is ongoing, and Iranian Americans can make a difference.
 
NIAC is once again calling on the American public–and Iranian Americans in particular–to join us in our campaign to save these priceless artifacts. The Persepolis Collection should be housed in institutions that can study it and protect it for future generations to appreciate, to learn from, and to enjoy.
 
 
What you can do to help
 
There are three easy, but important, steps you can take to help protect the Persepolis Collection:
 
1. Meet with your Congressperson and Senators and tell them you want Congress to protect your cultural heritage. Contact Michelle Moghtader, NIAC’s Director of Community Outreach, to set up the meeting.
 
2. Help NIAC continue its legal and policy efforts to protect the Persepolis Collection by making a donation to our organization. The NIAC staff is committed to saving our heritage, but we need your help to ensure that we can take advantage of every advantage.
 
3. Since 2002, the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project has worked to protect and study these important pieces of Persian history. Making a donation of any amount would help the Project employees continue their important work.
 

 

 

 

 

Battle Over Persepolis Antiquities

Panel with Stanford’s World Association of International Studies & Friends of Persepolis Fortification Archive Project (PFAP)

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For three years NIAC has been working extensively with Matthew Stolper of the University of Chicago through legal, media and policy avenues to preserve the tablets. Please join us and other Iranian-American organizations on October 11 to raise awareness about the plight of the Persepolis artifacts.

 
Cases are pending in Federal District Court in Chicago and Boston concerning disputes between plaintiff-victims and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Depending on the outcome, priceless ancient Persian artifacts in museums in Illinois and Massachusetts may be dismantled and sold at auction. While the victims’ families have a right to reparations, auctioning pieces of our Persian history is not the answer.
 
 
 
 
Date:Sunday, October 11, 2009
Time:4:00PM – 9:00PM
Location:Four Seasons Hotel
Silicon Valley at East Palo Alto
CA, USA
Tickets: Couple $75
Single $50
Academia $30
Student $15
 
Spots are filling quickly! So reserve your ticket today by emailing: PFAP-09@pavasta.com 
 

Pre-Event Talk

 4:00 – 5:00       Matthew Stolper

Cracking the Code: using language to unlock ancient history

[Professor Stolper will read and translate portions of Cyrus Cylinder in this section.]  

 

http://www.pavasta.com/aboutthescribe/pfap09.html

 

PFAP ‘09 Event  

5:30 – 5:45:Welcome & Overview

5:45 – 6:15 Matthew Stolper

Persepolis Fortification Archive Project: Preserving the Legacy of the Achaemenid Persians

6:15 – 6:45 Nema Milaninia

Overview of Legal Issues and Latest Legislative Developments

6:45 – 7:00      Glenn Schwartz

Legal Threats to Cultural Exchange: An Archaeologist’s Perspective

7:00 – 7:30       Break & Light Refreshments

7:30 – 8:45       Roundtable Discussion moderated by Richard Saller, Dean of Humanities &        Sciences, Stanford University

8:45 – 9:00      Concluding Remarks

9:00 – 10:00    No-host bar

Speakers

Matthew W. Stolper

Head of Persepolis Fortification Archive Project

Oriental Institute, University of Chicago

Nema Milaninia

President

Iranian American Bar Association (IABA)

Glenn Schwartz

Professor of Archaeology, Johns Hopkins University

Member of Archaeological Institute of America

Roundtable Discussion  

Moderated by: Richard Saller

Dean of Humanities & Sciences

Stanford University

Partial List of Roundtable Participants in alphabetical order  

Mitra Ara, Founding Director, Persian Cultural Heritage Studies (PCHS)

San Francisco State University

Touraj Daryaee, Professor of the History of Iran and the Persianate World

University of California, Irvine

Renée Dreyfus, Curator in Charge of Ancient Art and Interpretation

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Legion of Honor Museum

Babak Hoghooghi, Executive Director, Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA)

Fredun Hojabri, Former Academic Vice-President of Sharif (Aryamehr) University of Technology

Gita Kashani, Board Member, National Iranian American Council (NIAC)

Ali Mousavi, Assistant Curator of Ancient Iranian & Near Eastern Art

Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Member of Academic Committee of Farhang Foundation

Martin Schwartz, Professor of Iranian Studies, University of California, Berkeley

EVENT NOTES:

The event information is subject to change.
Please check http://www.pavasta.com/aboutthescribe/savethedate.html for updates prior to October 11th, 2009.

Those of you who cannot attend this event in person, please consider making a gift to the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project through the Oriental Institute’s Website:https://oi.uchicago.edu/getinvolved/donate/  You may use the Electronic Gift Form or print and fax or mail the Paper Gift Form.  Gifts to the PFA Project are tax deductible under applicable rules.  For tax information and other giving options, please contact the Oriental Institute directly.

Thanks to all of you for supporting this event.  We look forward to seeing you on October 11th!