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NIAC Applauds Investigation of Bank Discrimination Against Iranian Students

Press Release by National Iranian American Council (NIAC)

Washington DC - NIAC applauds the decision by Minnesota Department of Human Rights’ (MDHR) to investigate charges of alleged discrimination by TCF Bank against Iranian students whose university-linked bank accounts were terminated. NIAC has advocated publicly in support of the students and sent a letter to TCF Bank last year calling on the bank to reverse its decision and to ensure that its policies do not discriminate against Iranians.  

Graduate student Alireza Asary was one of several students a the University of Minnesota who were notified in December 2012 by TCF Bank that their accounts would be closed.
(Photo by Jaak Jensen)

“The sanctions against Iran have been so broad and sweeping that some companies have relied on profiling and discrimination to enforce them,” said Jamal Abdi, NIAC’s Policy Director. “The costs for violating sanctions are well known to these companies, but this investigation sends an important message that there is also a cost for violating civil rights in the name of sanctions enforcement.”

Samira Afzali, the lawyer representing the Iranian students, said that she hopes the investigation will provide more information about TCF Bank’s decision as well as raise awareness on the legal implications of the sanctions for Iranians in the U.S.

“It is critical to pursue cases like this in which ordinary Iranian noncitizens in the U.S. are being punished because of sanctions which are supposed to be targeting the Iranian government,” said Afzali. “If we don’t fight against occurrences like the TCF Bank case, discrimination against innocent Iranians will persist.”

In 2012, at least 22 Iranian students of the University of Minnesota received letters from TCF Bank stating that their accounts would be suddenly terminated. In December 2013, three international students at the University of Minnesota and a spouse of one of the students filed charges of discrimination against TCF Bank with MDHR. The state agency will now pursue a neutral fact finding investigation to determine if TCF Bank intentionally discriminated against Iranian noncitizens.

“These students came to the U.S. to study and to make a better life for themselves,” said Afzali. “Instead, they are being caught in a dispute between two governments and being discriminated against by companies in their attempt to enforce sanctions.”

Related Story: Iranian Students Hit by Sanctions on Schools, Banks


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