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Iranian Americans Work with Congress to Press for Humanitarian Sanctions Waiver

By: National Iranian American Council (NIAC)

Washington, DC - Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and eleven of his House colleagues called on President Obama today to extend a sanctions waiver for Iran earthquake relief and to take additional steps to stop sanctions from preventing food and medicine from reaching Iranians.

Congressional meetings focused on the community's overwhelming opposition to war and broad sanctions, and support for diplomacy and human rights.

Over one hundred NIAC members visited Capitol Hill on Tuesday during NIAC’s annual Leadership Conference to encourage their representatives to sign the letter and to urge the President to take further action to enable food and medicine to reach Iranians.

The expiring waiver, which was issued in August after deadly earthquakes struck northern Iran, was intended to allow American charities to send humanitarian aid to help with relief efforts in Iran.

Existing U.S. law prohibits sanctions against food, medicine, and humanitarian goods. But while such items are technically allowed to be exported to Iran, sanctions on Iranian banks have eliminated almost all channels to facilitate such transactions.

Similarly, the earthquake waiver was intended to temporary eliminate restrictions on direct financial support for earthquake recovery efforts. But relief organizations reported that, even with the waiver and existing exemptions for food and medicine, financial sanctions continued to make it nearly impossible to send donations or humanitarian goods to Iran.

The result is that some American charities were left with only one option: stuffing suitcases with cash and flying them directly into Iran. At the same time, companies have reported that sanctions are blocking food and medicine sales to Iran, while reports inside of Iran indicate increasing shortages of critical medicine and medical devices.

In their letter, the Representatives called on President Obama “to take needed additional steps to ensure humanitarian goods that are legally permitted under this waiver and existing licenses, such as food and medicine, are able to reach the people of Iran.”

The letter is available here.

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