Dealing with Iran sanctions

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (L) announce new sanctions against Iran at the State Department. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

By Bert Eljera

LAS VEGAS –  In an effort to assist Iranian-Americans understand and comply with the crippling U.S. government’s sanctions against Iran, a San Francisco-based AsianAmerican civil rights group has updated and simplified the language of the laws to be easier understood.

In addition, a companion “Know Your Rights,” guideline was released to explain what legally could be asserted to protect individual rights.

The Asian Law Caucus, in partnership with the Iranian American Bar Association, the National Iranian American Council and the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans, provided on Friday the updates in two reports called Unintended Victims: The Impact of the Iran Sanctions on Iranian Americans (“Unintended Victims”), and Know Your Rights: The Impact of the U.S. Sanctions Against Iran on You (“Know Your Rights”).

“The (reports) examine the unintended, yet harsh, impact the sanctions have had, and continue to have, on Iranian Americans and other U.S. persons,” the ALC said in a statement.

While the sanctions, first initiated in 1979, were intended to force Iran to comply with certain international mandates, most recently as regards to its nuclear program, they have unintended consequences to Iranian immigrants, now mostly U.S. citizens.

Such hardship include selling personal or inherited properties in Iran, which are considered legal, under certain limitations.

Under its “Unintended Victims” report, ALC and its partners detailed the complexity of the sanctions, the lack of knowledge around what the sanctions allow and prohibit, and the lack of useful guidance for community members from agencies charged with administering and enforcing the sanctions.

“The rapid expansion of the sanctions in recent months have only compounded this confusion,” the report said.

The ALC and other Iranian-American organizations have received inquires from the community about the effects of the additional sanctions to their  routine personal, family, business, and charitable activities.

According to the Census Bureau, there are about 460,000 Iranians in the U.S., about 80 percent of whom are U.S. citizens. As many as 1 million are believed to be in the country, a rapid growth for a community that started arriving only in the 1950s.

Ethnically and by religion, Iranian-Americans are a diverse group. Some are Arabs, Azaris, Kurds, Lors, Gilakis, Arabs, Baluchis, Armenians, Assyrians and Turkmens, among others.

They also practice Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrinism and Baha’i, among other faiths.

In one of the cases cited in the report, the ALC told the story of Ehsan, who has been a U.S. citizen since the 1990s and had inherited a property – a shopping center – in Iran.

He had wanted to sell the property and bring the money to the U.S. for his own use. But he could not do it because of the confusing rules on the sanctions.

In the meantime, he has to spend money to have somebody watch it in Iran and he has suffered lots of stress, and had to be hospitalized for high blood pressure.

As a companion to the report, the ALC also released an updated version of its “Know Your Rights” a guide, which was originally published in May 2011, and updated to reflect the numerous changes to the Iran Sanctions that have occurred since that date.

“The Asian Law Caucus hopes that this guide will provide useful information about applicable requirements to the community,” it said.

Follow Bert Eljera on Twitter @vegaspinoy60 and on Facebook at facebook.com/BertEljera.

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