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Sanctions Cut Off Online Courses for Iranians

Press Release by National Iranian American Council (NIAC)

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) - Article 26.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
  • (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
  • (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Education Rewards, by Sarah Hartwig
Posters for Tomorrow exhibition, “The Right to Education” held in Paris in December 2011; organized by UNESCO and the 4Tomorrow association to stimulate thought and debate on human rights issues.

Washington, DC - NIAC calls on the Treasury and State Department to take immediate action to address restrictions that have cut off online courses for Iranians. The online education provider Coursera has announced that it will no longer provide access to individuals in Iran, Sudan, and Cuba due to U.S. sanctions. Under existing federal authorities, a license should be issued to Coursera to allow their continued provision of educational services in embargoed countries. NIAC urges Coursera to work with Treasury and State to facilitate the provision of this license.

"Denying Iranians the right to an education undermines American interests and values, and violates the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," said NIAC Policy Director Jamal Abdi. "The Iranian government has systematically denied education to students based on their political and religious beliefs. The U.S. should not be in the business of denying education to students simply because they are Iranian."

NIAC has urged that scientific and academic exchanges are critical to improving U.S.-Iran relations and empowering moderate elements in Iran.

Coursera is but one example of how broad U.S. sanctions have impacted Iranian students in recent years. Similar non-profit online education services MITx and EDx do not offer Iranians certificates of completion.

In 2010, Educational Testing Service suspended the TOEFL English-language proficiency test for Iranians, which is required for studying in the US and UK, in 2010. Thankfully, that issue was resolved through grassroots pressure and the intervention of Treasury and State.

Many Iranian students studying in the U.S. report difficulties in paying tuition and basic living expenses due to sanctions closing off financial channels. In 2012 in Minnesota, TCF Bank unilaterally terminated at least 29 Iranian students' bank accounts. The bank is now being investigated for discrimination by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, but such difficulties continue to plague Iranian students in the U.S.

Under Iran sanctions legislation passed by Congress in 2012, prospective Iranian students are now denied from studying in the U.S. in energy or nuclear-related fields. A directive was subsequently sent to U.S. universities operating abroad instructing them to deny undergraduate students from taking math, science, or engineering courses beyond the introductory level and requiring a U.S. government license to admit Iranian graduate students. Under sanctions pressure, scientific journals began rejecting Iranian authors last year. Many prospective students in Iran say they are being denied U.S. student visas due to security restrictions and because they are automatically disqualified due having fulfilled their mandatory military service in Iran.

"The patchwork of Iran sanctions is so broad and convoluted that the limited carve outs put in place are never able to prevent collateral damage," said Abdi. "The end result is that we end up punishing ordinary people and jeopardizing our most important relationships with the next generation of Iranians who will decide Iran's future."

Between 1974 and 1983, more students came to study in the U.S. from Iran than any other country, with approximately 50,000 Iranian students studying in the U.S. That number has dropped significantly. Recognizing the significant benefit of hosting Iranian students and building bonds with the people of Iran, the State Department has worked to expand Iranian student visas and nearly 9,000 Iranian students now study in the U.S.-more than at any other time in the past two and half decades. Unfortunately, sanctions continue to undermine these efforts.

Related Article:

US Restricts Free Online Courses to Some Countries

- The U.S. education company Coursera, which offers free Internet-based classes in subjects ranging from Medicine and Mathematics to Business and Social Sciences, says it 'regretably had to make changes' to its accessibility in some countries. 01/30/14


... Payvand News - 01/30/14 ... --

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