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PERCEIVED MIDDLE EASTERN ?! You are in deep trouble by the U.S. Government

By PIROUZ AZADI ( (A University Professor in New York)

The impeding Civil Predicaments of the Persian/Iranian-Americans YOU Iranian-Americans: Stand up and be counted, or hide and be mistreated!

As we are once again overwhelmed with the barrage of a political campaign circus when the prospective candidates of the main two parties, who have but all sold it already to the corporate conglomerates, yet, all of a sudden remember there are constituencies on whom they direly depend for votes pro forma, it is fitting to present another perspective on certain government xenophobic discriminatory practices and profiling that have by and large remained uncovered in the "mainstream" media.

Earlier articles titled, "Looking Middle Eastern?" and "You need not ravel, apply for work or exist", have recently appeared broadly in the e-press. The first article above appeared almost two years ago, in which this author enumerated specific violations of civil and constitutional rights of Americans of Iranian heritage. There is also a rather elaborate interview with a renowned Iranian-American, Professor Rahni of New York, which is well worth reading so as to better understand the challenges faced by this community in the U.S. The current article herein, revised and up-dated, substantiates the fact that the problem has only been exacerbated whereby such good citizens are only deemed collateral damage in the so-called war against terrorism, a self-perpetuating surveillance, security and military enterprise apparatus fast approaching trillions of dollars a year. Our U.S. Government, along with our so-called western allies is the perpetrating accomplice. Let us reiterate the collective commitment of these naturalized citizens to uphold the U.S. Constitution, the laws and the integrity of the U.S. Above any other priorities in life.

I, still with a dim glimmer of hope, had submitted this open letter to every organ of our government, from the White House, to Senate and the House leadership and various government departments, including the Office of the Attorney General. My hope was that perhaps impartial investigation would lead to the refining of our laws (e.g., Patriot Act, FISA, Military Act 2006, etc.) and government policies to safeguard every citizen's legal rights and due process. What a devastating blow it has been to see that no one even bothered sending back an acknowledgment. The only viable option at this point is to go into coalition with other progressive citizen groups, including those from the ten million plus Americans of Middle Eastern and south/west Asian heritage, in order to elect the right candidate to the highest office of the land and perhaps for the world, in November 2008.

Along with millions of Americans of Middle Eastern ancestry, the Iranian-Americans feel particularly singled out with the enduring and agonizing deterioration of their civil and constitutional rights, rights violations that have only been exacerbated after September 11 when the U.S. Was despicably attacked by a group of fanatical terrorists from abroad. I tend to mainly focus herein on the particular plight of the nearly one million law abiding Americans of Iranian/Persian heritage, who make an annual contribution to the American economy approaching hundreds of billions of dollars and with educational achievements that are at least twice the national average. I challenge anyone to find a college or the university in the U.S. Where Iranian-American professors are not eminently present. Our personal and professional aspirations have been curtailed immeasurably at the expense of our dignity. The same, I may say, also applies to well over ten million Americans whose ancestry spans from south India, to central Asia and across to North Africa through the so-called Middle East. Unless these patriotic Americans form a sustaining political coalition of voting bloc they will never be truly recognized in the American political process.

Specifically, I am focusing on my own family's specific ordeals as echoed by others in the hope that with an effective leadership, through the various Congressional Committee actions' or government reviews, investigative journalism and class action litigation will not be necessary. If given the opportunity to speak at a congressional or a government advisory hearing, I could orchestrate many testimonials who would, on condition of immunity from government harassment and intimidation, share their ordeals in the expectation of safeguarding their legitimate civil and constitutional rights in their adopted country, to which they have given so very much and continue to do so, proudly. The irony is that not only the above ethnic groups, due to their perceived, albeit baseless religious or cultural inclinations are presumed collectively guilty, and their habeas corpus and due process violated, must prove their innocence. With certain exceptions, they may not even be informed of such violations against them as these government actions are often carried through covert means and with no legal justification. Déjà vu all over again, one can not help but to painfully recall internment of over two million "suspects" worldwide by the Allied forces, over half million Japanese Americans alone, who were incarcerated for under "guilt" by ethnic association, during Word War II. In retrospect, the baseless and pernicious humiliation brought upon these citizens could have been prevented if only good citizens of stature and influence had questioned hysteria of profiling the "enemy".

The above patriotic Americans of Middle Eastern (e.g., Iranian origin) are systematically profiled and singled out during their travels. Further, when applying for "senior" government positions, for which they are manifestly qualified according to the required guidelines of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, they are systematically denied due to lack of sound due process to secure security clearance. Yet, government officials, The CIA, FBI, DHS and NSA, with harassing intimidations to "cooperate" and become "informants", approach these Americans. Against their will, there are others who are systematically approached through patronizing intimations for "cooperation". In violation of even the hastily enacted FISA/PATRIOT Acts, there are ample painful examples of government surveillance and wire tapping of Americans, whereby individuals are subjected to coercive interrogations by the federal agents, in particular, those from the so-called, National Resources Division of the Central Intelligence Agency. Paradoxically, the above citizens are, by and large, emancipated from their country of origin with the exception of family ties, which oblige them to travel back infrequently to Iran, as in our particular instance to visit elderly parents. Despite their huge financial and emotional burdens, and proffered affidavit of support, these Iranian relatives are systematically denied temporary tourist visas to visit the American families in the U.S.. It goes, of course, without saying that all Americans, including the naturalized should and would report any substantiated illegal or criminal activities to the authorities to prevent potential disasters. That notwithstanding, however, the absurd notion of profiling specific ethnic groups, or singling them out for surveillance and/or humiliating and denigrating interrogations and search in public places such as the airports, is simply inhumane and un-American. It reminds one of the bitter days of Auschwitz or the Gulag concentration camps of Russia or the internment of the Japanese-Americans in World War II. Ironically, a great many of the Iranian-Americans have fled their native country with substantial capital and advanced educational and professional acumen in the hope of living their lives peacefully in the promised-land! What a promised land this has become on government watch, indeed. As painful as it may seem, such Iranian-Americans, when traveling to Iran nowadays, are treated with utmost respect and dignity there, but not in their American port of departure or re-entry.

As much I had hoped these few anecdotes are personal predicaments and were simply the exceptions, let me reassure you that such personal stories are simply the tip of the iceberg. One can hardly find a single Iranian-American or the Middle Eastern American who has not been subjected to, or lives daily without the apprehensive fear of bogus persecutions in the U.S., travel restrictions, or professional challenges. It is so painfully ironic that while Iranian-Americans fled their motherland to seek democracy, freedom, human rights, equal opportunity, and civil and constitutional rights in the U.S., that once again they find themselves in a desperate quagmire where the same exact set of rights are denied to them, and millions of other Americans, too.

In enthusiastic response to 9/11 many in our community strove to undergo a career change and considered joining the federal agencies in order to substantively utilize their decades of scientific track records in support of forensics and domestic law enforcement, and civilian protections. Some were selected on several occasions among the finalists for GS-15 (step 10) and SES/ST tier positions within the FBI, DOD/Laboratory Divisions, and other federal agencies. In every case, and, without any due process, presumably because of their country of origin and their religion as perceived, the said agencies did not even bother to pursue the acquisition of security clearance, nor provide an iota of explanation, to them. The Offices of Personnel Management, EE/EO and/or the Justice Department Civil Rights Division, when contacted under FOIA, did not follow through on such grievances either. The above employing agencies, however, acted more professionally, to say the least, when compared to many other federal positions for which candidates were qualified, by having compared their credentials with those who were in the end appointed to the positions, by allowing prospective finalist to step forward. Other latter federal agencies did not even acknowledge the receipt of submitted applications from Middle-Eastern Americans. Having, in the recent past, many served as member of advisory board for various government panels such as Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey's Citizens group, or the editorial board of the Forensic Science Communications (published by the FBI), while others continue presiding over contextual annual symposiums such as 'Scientific Advances in "Counter-terrorism, Homeland Security, and Forensics," they still feel they have much to contribute.

When traveling, my family and I, especially since September 11, have been subjected to some of the cruelest scrutiny, capricious interrogations and egregious body and luggage searches, unprecedented in our history. When feeling outraged, the painful dilemma facing us is that the airport agents constantly admonish us with the phrase, "Remember September11?" as if Iranians, or any other Iranian-Americans, let alone we, have ever had to with any of such criminal acts. Such humiliating and denigrating mistreatment occurs in the presence of hundreds of onlookers, who stare at us with hate and suspicion. My wife and I may have over our lifetimes become painfully attuned to such mistreatment and we internalize and deal with it as a tragic comedy. It has, however, now hit our U.S. born children devastatingly, especially our 11-year old daughter, who, when struggling to board Air France with my wife, enroute to Tehran to visit her ailing and aging grandparents on December 14, 2007, was frightened and literally shell-shocked. The traumatic pain inflicted upon her will remain with her for the rest of her life. My daughter, while at the airport had noticed the profiling of "Middle Eastern" looking passengers for excessive scrutiny, where the mainstream, mostly of European descent blonde Americans were checked in rather expeditiously; the same observation was later made independently by a blond American of German heritage friend of ours at the same JFK airport. My daughter is a superb young girl, with an IQ that stands among the top 1% of the population; she is an excellent model gifted student at school, and has had the ambitious aspiration to move into the highest Office in the U.S.. After her ordeal, I only hope that her long-term aspirations have not been detrimentally undermined. She has been horrified to return home to her place of birth, New York, begging us to move out of the US to live more peacefully elsewhere. To sum it, no Iranian-American seems to have been mistreated anywhere else, including their homeland where they may travel as ex-patriates, to the extent of trauma inflicted here in the U.S. Moreover, there are ample cases of visa denials to our families with no explanations given. For those few exceptional visas granted, mostly to our senior parents, the individuals upon entry to the U.S. are repeatedly strip-searched and interrogated with much humiliation, with mostly irrelevant politically or intelligently charged and/or personal questions, for hours. And last but not least, -Have we, that is, our government, ever explained why the close family members of Iranian-Americans whom we have petitioned for immigrations, must await overseas for up twenty-five years, whereas the government claims even with the current backlog, such cohorts are unusually processed in "less than a few years?" -Have we ever asked whose interest it serves, for parents of Iranian-Americans to travel up to five times to a third country for U.S. visa processing and await anxiously for over a year before only a few of them are allowed to visit their American offspring here?

-Has anyone ever asked the DHS, the CIA or the FBI and/or the administration how the zealot U.S. security of the nation as a whole, which costs us the taxpayers, hundreds of billion dollars annually, has led to any measurable substantiated security? -Have you ever asked the administration and the federal agencies, with the above scrutiny and intimating surveillance in effect, whether or not they have found any corroborated terrorist suspects especially those of Iranian descent (no one I opine) thereby curtailing a specific terrorist plot, and thus justifying such huge financial burden and compromise on the civil and constitutional rights of citizens? -Have you ever asked the policy makers, administration and the federal agencies whether there has ever been a convicted Iranian terrorist, especially from among the one million Iranian-Americans, which might justify such mass intimidation? The irony of this is that the crime rate among Iranian-Americans stands at one-fiftieth of our national average, according to U.S. census and independent analysis, but that has not deterred the feds to continually intensify their illegal surveillance and baseless intimidations and prosecutions of the Middle Eastern ethnicities on bogus grounds.

I understand that when these grievance statements were submitted to various government agencies that a congressional aid or a junior staff member might have reviewed this communiqué to decide whether or not to provide a synopsis and possible recommendation. If they answered NO to any or all the above questions, it is incumbent upon government officials take all steps necessary in order to correct what has gone wrong far too long. The time for action is far over due, as the country has been subjected to some of the most tumultuous, costliest and polarizing sham schemes never recorded in its two hundred plus years of history, for which no one can show any results anchored on sound cost-benefit model.

In summary, a sustainable diverse bloc of votes, therefore, needs to be finally together, not only led by the Iranian-Americans but more effectively with substantive input by all Americans of Middle Eastern, South and Central Asians, and North African heritage. This is the effective 'American' way to advocate for, and truly earn our civil and constitutional rights. That vision may require a $10 annual contribution per person (that is $100M for 10 million of the above citizens), massive voter registrations and substantive participations in the political process in our country. It would be the best investment ever made as we each uphold the American ideals and the Constitution while safeguarding our very own personal and professional aspirations in life.

... Payvand News - 02/20/08 ... --

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