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7/14/06

DC Town Hall Meeting Condemns Discrimination Against Iranian

By Shahrzad Daneshvar and Shervin Boloorian, National Iranian American Council

 

Washington DC, July 13, 2006 - Roughly 65 members of the Iranian-American community gathered to hear government officials and civil rights experts discuss discrimination challenges at a Town Hall Meeting in Washington yesterday. The panel discussion followed remarks by Rep. Marty Meehan (D-MA), a supporter of immigrant rights and author of a resolution (HRes 367) condemning discrimination against Iranian Americans. 

 

Drawing on panelist perspectives and expertise, the “Iranian American Know Your Rights Campaign” meeting was moderated by Robert Babayi, Executive Director of the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Iranian American Bar Association and was cosponsored by the Iranian American Political Action Committee.

 

Dana Hutter, District Director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) of Washington, D.C., discussed the characteristics of overt post-9/11 backlash discrimination and appealed to members of the community to communicate their concerns or cases to his agency.

 

“The bad news is that it is not always something that people who experience this kind of discrimination will come to us about. There are many who understandably fear the government or are intimidated by it, so one of my aims is to go to meetings like this and let people know that we are here…I want you to know that our doors are open to you,” said Director Hutter.

 

Speaking passionately about the extremity of Iranian-American discrimination cases she had witnessed, the President and Founder of the National Legal Sanctuary for Community Advancement, Banafsheh Akhlaghi, spoke about the urgent need to inform the Iranian-American community of their civil rights and to build coalitions with other impacted ethnic communities.

 

According to Ms. Akhlaghi, the Know Your Rights Coalition was launched in response to the rise in FBI surveillance of families and students and was intended to keep law enforcement agencies accountable.  She noted several country-of-origin discrimination cases affecting Iranian Americans which led to improper workplace background checks, interrogations and surveillances, deportation proceedings against US citizens, and inappropriate recruitment of law enforcement informants within the community. 

 

The Campaign, which was launched in Los Angeles at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Southern California headquarters, fueled the introduction of HRes 367 in July 2005—a non-binding resolution condemning bigotry, violence, and discrimination against Iranian Americans.

 

“Hate crimes are nothing new to this country,” said Congressman Meehan, “We need to educate the public about hate crimes against the Iranian American community and that is why I passed HRes 367. I look forward to a day in America where a resolution like this is not necessary. Unfortunately, we have a long way to go.”

 

Meehan spotlighted the discriminatory practices of the US government and rejected the argument that homeland security was grounds enough for undermining individual rights. “We are a country of immigrants. Unfortunately, our immigration system has failed American immigrants as well as our country.  Immigrants are serving our country more than this country is serving our immigrants.  Protecting our country against potential threats does not mean throwing our rights out the window.”

 

Ms. Akhlaghi emphasized that all Iranian Americans are vulnerable to deportation and government profiling regardless of their legal status. “The events of today do not immune any of you based on your status in this country. My status can be revoked from me based on what the government may find or believe to find.”

 

Panelists concurred that educating citizens of their rights can help fight discrimination; however, no concrete legislative recommendations were outlined to address the issues. Dalia Hashad, Director of Amnesty International’s Washington chapter noted that the End Racial Profiling Act contains some relevant provisions.  

 

Although she criticized the alleged rampant discrimination being carried out by federal law enforcement agencies, Akhlaghi fervently defended the U.S. legal system. “I'm a former constitutional law professor and I truly believe in that document and I truly believe in the legal system. That’s why I do what I do. There’s a reason for our existence in this country. We came here for a particular ideal. I personally can’t stand by and watch that ideal evaporate.”

 

For more information, visit the Iranian American Political Action Committee and Iranian American Bar Association websites at: http://www.iranianamericanpac.org/ and http://www.iaba.us/.

 

... Payvand News - 7/14/06 ... --



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