Iranian Americans criticize US sanctions impeding delivery of aid to earthquake victims
Many Iranian Americans have been advised by their lawyers to refrain from donating in order to avoid appearing on a list.
August 15, 2012, 15:15 EST
Iranian Americans are protesting US sanctions that are impeding delivery of aid to Iran’s earthquake victims. More than 300 people were killed and thousands more injured in the earthquake that hit northern Iran on August 11. Two days later, the National Iranian American Council issued a statement warning the severe US measures against Iran raise "serious concerns that humanitarian relief will be hindered." Most of the 300 killed were women and children.
Cash donations for charity to Iran are not allowed, unless specially approved by the US government. Shiva Balaghi, a visiting professor of Iranian studies at Brown University, noted the difficulties that sanctions pose to disaster relief. "There's confusion about what the sanctions mean," she said. "Unfortunately because of this confusion, most interactions with Iran have become incredibly difficult."
The US government has recently responded to the protests by lifting the bar to charitable donations. "Americans wishing to provide humanitarian assistance to Iranians during this time may donate food and medicine without obtaining an Iranian transactions regulations license," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters. The National Iranian Council organized a petition urging the lifting of this ban that was sent to President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
Earthquake relief to Iran is further hampered by the Syria conflict. The Turkish Red Crescent is on the border ready to assist with the victims, but it hasn’t been allowed to proceed by the Turkish government, which has taken the opposing position from Iran’s in the recent conflict on Syria.
Despite the US government’s message of support for the victims of Iran earthquake—a message of condolence from the White House was addressed to the “Iranian people”—in practice its policies render the encouragement to donate charity suspect. Many Iranian Americans have been advised by their lawyers to refrain from donating in order to avoid appearing on a list.