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08/17/12

Lawmakers Urge President Obama to Enable Humanitarian Assistance to Iran

Source: Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA)

August 16, 2012, Washington, D.C. - Today, Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-10th/OH) and a number of other members of Congress sent a letter to President Barack Obama expressing concern over the possible hindrance of humanitarian assistance to the Iranian people and urging him to issue a general license for humanitarian aid to earthquake victims in Iran.

At the urging of the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA), Representatives Andre D. Carson (D-7th/IN), Donna Edwards (D-4th/MD), Michael Honda (D-15th/CA), Barbara Lee (D-9th/CA), John Mica (R-7th/FL), and Jackie Speier (D-12th/CA) signed the letter to the president. Other signatories include Representatives John Conyers, Jr. (D-14th/MI), Keith Ellison (D-5th/MN), Raul Grijalva (D-7th/AZ), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-4th/GA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-18th/TX), Jim McDermott (D-7th/WA), and John W. Olver (D-1st/MA).

Click here to see a copy of the letter. 

On Saturday, August 11, 2012, two earthquakes struck northwest Iran killing at least three hundred people and leaving thousands injured and homeless.  Under the current sanctions regime, individuals are allowed to send food and medicine to Iran.  However, U.S. relief organizations, which can provide immediate supplies to the victims and assist them in rebuilding efforts, require a license issued by the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) to operate in Iran.

In their letter to President Obama, the lawmakers pointed out that the current standstill in negotiations with the Iranian government should not come at the expense of humanitarian assistance to the Iranian people.  “Aiding them in their time of need would reaffirm U.S. support for the Iranian people and make clear that our sanctions do not represent an attempt to harm the Iranian people,” wrote the members of Congress. In addition, the letter urges the Administration to “provide public guidance that financial institutions are permitted and encouraged to facilitate all legal transactions that have been licensed by the U.S. Government.”

PAAIA thanks Representatives Kucinich, Carson, Edwards, Honda, Lee, Mica, and Speier as well as the other signatories for urging the president to enable humanitarian assistance to the Iranian people. On August 13, 2012, PAAIA, along with a number of Iranian American organizations, submitted a letter to the Director of OFAC urging the U.S. Government to take immediate action to allow humanitarian assistance for the victims of the recent earthquakes in northwestern Iran. Amongst the recommendations was a request for OFAC to issue a general license, similar to the one issued by the Bush Administration following the 2003 earthquake in Bam, to facilitate relief organizations to provide services in Iran.

PAAIA will continue its efforts to bring a resolution to this issue and to ensure that timely assistance is provided to the victims of the earthquake in Iran.

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