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02/13/15

NIAC Concerned by University's Exclusion of Iranian Students, Calls for Reversal

Press Release by National Iranian American Council (NIAC)

Washington, DC - The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) has learned that the University of Massachusetts Amherst will no longer admit Iranian nationals as students in certain engineering and science programs and will require all Iranian students to certify their compliance with certain sanctions. NIAC is deeply concerned by the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s action and calls on the University to reverse its decision. NIAC will be in contact with the school, relevant government agencies and Congress in the days ahead to see if we can find a resolution to this matter that does not disenfranchise Iranians.

“This is a major problem for UMass Amherst, which risks doing real damage to itself as an institution,” said NIAC President Trita Parsi. “It’s also a problem for the U.S. government, which only undermines American values and influence when it prevents universities from reaching out to young Iranians.”

The University’s actions constitute an overly broad interpretation its obligations under sanctions. Its decision is apparently in response to language included in a 2012 sanctions law that was strongly opposed by NIAC. In addition to organizing efforts to oppose that sanctions bill, NIAC was especially critical of the language in question pertaining to students and raised serious concerns with members of Congress and the Obama Administration as the bill moved forward. NIAC worked to try to remove and later to narrow the scope of the language. Once passed into law, NIAC called on then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to take action to shield students from the adverse effects of the language.

“Of all the people to hurt with sanctions, punishing students and undermining educational exchanges is a particularly damaging act,” said Parsi. “The people of Iran have positive views of the United States, and higher education is one of the best forums to foster important relationships with young Iranians that can help improve ties and even prevent conflicts.”

NIAC has consistently opposed broad sanctions legislation in Congress and worked prevent the negative effects such measures on ordinary Iranians and Iranian Americans. NIAC has advocated for increased contact between Americans and Iranians, including through educational exchanges and opportunities. NIAC worked to ensure Iranian students would be able to obtain multiple-entry visas, to defend Iranian students against banks who discriminated against them due to sanctions, and to ensure Iranian students were not blocked from proficiency exams necessary for them to study abroad. NIAC looks forward to playing a positive role to help find a solution to this new instance of sanctions hurting Iranian students.

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