15
Dec

2014 Accomplishments

2014 was a pivotal year for PAAIA. In May, after much soul-searching and careful deliberation, PAAIA’s Board of Directors –  taking into account PAAIA’s more seasoned stage of development, the evolving needs of the community, and the nature of U.S.-Iran relations – decided to refocus its efforts from community, image, and influence building to bridge-building, influence-building, and leadership-building. We are confident that with the evolving nature of both U.S.-Iran relations and our community, these new pillars will enable PAAIA to more effectively serve our community. Over the ensuing months, we worked on further defining the programs that would support developing the needed infrastructure and resources to support these pillars.

In addition, we continued to represent our community in front of policy and lawmakers, administration staff, and the public. We continued to support the needs of our youth, advocated on issues of importance on behalf of our community, and promoted the election of candidates for office who understand and represent our community’s views. Below, please find a synopsis of our accomplishments during this past year.

The report was officially released at a panel discussion at the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council. Over one hundred people attended the discussion with numerous individuals representing various embassies and think tanks as well as representatives from the State Department, USAID, and the Department of Defense.  The panelists included author Ramin Asgard, Ambassador John Limbert, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran and a former U.S. hostage in Tehran. 

  • In February, PAAIA staff and members were, amongst a number of other organizations and individuals, invited to participate in a roundtable discussion with the Iranian American community hosted by the White House Office of Public Engagement. The meeting featured several key Administration officials who provided an overview of a range of domestic and foreign policy topics including U.S. economic overview, immigration, healthcare, civic participation, human rights, and U.S.- Iranian relations. 

  • As it has done in previous years, PAAIA, in conjunction with Congressman Michael M. Honda (D-CA), Congressman J. Randy Forbes (R-VA), Congressman Tony Cardenas (CA-29), Congressman Andre Carson (IN-7), Congressman Gerald Connolly (VA-11), Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52), Congressman David Schweikert (AZ-5), and Congressman Henry Waxman (CA-33), hosted a Nowruz reception on Capitol Hill for members of Congress and their staff. In attendance were ten members of Congress as well as more than one hundred and fifty congressional staff and special guests.

  • On March 26, 2014, over two hundred guests joined PAAIA in a reception to celebrate the opening of A Thousand Years of the Persian Book exhibition at the Library of Congress.  PAAIA was the primary co-sponsor of the exhibition, which provided a glimpse into the Library’s unique collection of Persian books. A bipartisan group of twenty-one members of Congress served as honorary co-hosts of the reception, which included a beautiful haft seen and the opportunity for guests to see the exhibition for the first time. Nearly half million visitors viewed the exhibition during its six month tenure at the Library.

  • In May, PAAIA released a report, “Iranian Americans: Immigration and Assimilation.” The report is the first in a series of three reports that aim to provide more in-depth information about Iranian Americans. The report discusses the three major waves of Iranian immigration to the United States, self-identification of the Iranian American community, and typical benchmarks of assimilation, among other things.

  • On Friday September 12th, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in co-sponsorship with PAAIA, held a successful, standing-room only panel entitled The Middle East in Turmoil: Can it Recover?, which included a discussion on viable strategies to overcome the current setbacks facing U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. The panelists consisted of acclaimed journalists Thomas Friedman of the New York Times and David Ignatius of the Washington Post, moderated by senior Carnegie Endowment associate Karim Sadjadpour.

  • On Friday, September 13, Dr. Zbigniew Brezezinski closed PAAIA’s Annual Retreat with a discussion on the past and present state of our world, especially the Middle East. The conversation was inspiring, highly educational, and the perfect culminating event to a weekend that included presentations by numerous well-known and accomplished panelists.

  • In October, PAAIA released its congressional scorecard for the 113th Congress. The primary purpose of PAAIA’s biannual congressional scorecard is to ensure that Iranian Americans are informed about the voting records and performances of their members of Congress. In addition, the scorecards ensure that members of Congress are aware that their votes and positions on issues of importance to the Iranian American community will be analyzed and made public.

  • In December, PAAIA launched a resource page that provides easily accessible information about the ongoing nuclear negotiations between Iran and the members of the P5+1.  The resource page includes a compilation of information provided by the U.S. government on the negotiations as well as viewpoints from members of Congress, editorials from leading news sources, and analyses from foreign policy and national security experts. 

In addition, we were at the forefront of advocating on issues of importance for our community. Highlights of some of these activities include the following:

  • Throughout the year, PAAIA has stood up for a diplomatic resolution to the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program. PAAIA, as expressed through its surveys, has informed members of Congress and their staff about the concerns of Iranian Americans over potential military conflict with Iran and their support for a negotiated settlement that limits Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Our relationships on Capitol Hill were of significant value when the consideration of new sanctions legislation in the Senate threatened to undermine the P5+1 negotiations with Iran.   

  • We engaged members of Congress and their staff on the importance of facilitating the sale of online communications and technology to Iran. Despite authorization by the Department of Treasury, Iranians still face difficulties accessing information technology.  American companies and other software providers face additional legal concerns due to U.S. sanctions.  In February 2014, the administration released General License D-1, which provides further clarification and authorization for the exportation of certain services, software, and hardware incident to personal communications to Iran. 

  • PAAIA, along with a coalition of eight other organizations, contacted Yahoo! with a letter asking Yahoo! to remove registration restrictions for the people of Iran as legalized by OFAC’s issue of an Iranian General D License. The general license authorized the exportation of software and hardware services used for personal communication in Iran.  As a result, Yahoo! restored email and messaging services to millions of Iranians who have been barred from account registration for the past year.

  • In March, PAAIA met with the Embassy of India to discuss the Indian government’s procedures for issuing visas to U.S. passport holders who were born in Iran.  The meeting was in response to a letter PAAIA sent to the Indian Embassy last September concerning delays in visa applications experienced by some Iranian Americans seeking to travel to India.  PAAIA was assured by the Consular Minister of the Embassy that there are no new or special procedures for American citizens of Iranian origin and that they would be happy to review the cases of any specific visa applicants who may be facing delays.

  • In September, PAAIA contacted Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) to express concern that the broad language of his legislation authorizing the use of military force (H.R.5415) could have negative implications for the Iranian American community.  His office explained that the intent of the legislation is to initiate a discussion and that if the legislation is brought up for a vote, his office will consider making changes that will narrow the scope and focus of the legislation.   

  • In October, PAAIA sent a letter to President Obama in support of Judge Afsaneh Ashley Tabaddor and her recently filed suit against the United States Department of Justice.  The letter was signed by 30 Years After, the Arab American Institute, the Armenian National Committee of America, and the PARS Equality Center. The organizations urged the administration to review the case of Judge Tabaddor, and if no evidence has been found that she cannot be impartial in cases involving Iranians, to reverse the recusal order given to her.

  • In 2013, PAAIA joined a broad coalition of organizations and scholars in requesting that the Census Bureau consider a category for people of Middle Eastern or North African (MENA) origin in the 2020 Census. In October of 2014, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that it will for the first time test a new distinct category for respondents of MENA heritage as part of its mid-decade research. The national test will be held in the fall of 2015 with the aim of testing new strategies for the official 2020 Census.

The work of the Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC), the affiliated PAC of PAAIA, is also worth special mention. In 2014, IAPAC contributed $82,000 to a bipartisan group of members of Congress, congressional party committees, and Iranian American candidates running for public office during the 2014 election cycle. IAPAC contributions are a means of access to discuss policy positions and/or educate our elected officials, assuring that our message is heard on Capitol Hill, and a way to encourage increased community participation.

In addition, IAPAC helped raise an additional $313,000 for our endorsed candidates.

IAPAC also played a key role in promoting the campaigns of various Iranian American individuals, including State Rep. Cyrus Habib who was elected to the Washington State Senate, Darius Shahinfar who was elected as the City Treasurer for Albany, and Richard Taleverdarian who was elected to the Santa Monica Board of Education.  

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