On this page, you can read about the work that PAAIA has been doing advocating for the Iranian American community. This page is categorized by year, and you can read through each year by clicking the (+) or (-) button next to the year name.
- PAAIA has been at the forefront of the fight against the discriminatory Travel Ban since the beginning. In addition to challenging all three iterations of the ban in federal court and filing and submitting an amicus brief to the Supreme Court, PAAIA and its coalition have also worked with Senator Chris Van Hollen’s office to obtain clarification on the ban’s waiver provisions. Our efforts revealed that very few waivers are being granted, even when applicants meet the ban’s criteria. In response, Senator Van Hollen introduced an amendment that would require public reporting on the Travel Ban and waiver statistics, which was subsequently passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Justice Breyer referenced the waiver part of our amicus brief in his dissent, calling the ban’s waiver provisions ‘window dressings.’Since the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to uphold the ban, our coalition partners have initiated a lawsuit challenging the waiver process based on the statistics we helped to reveal. PAAIA has also been working with the ACLU on draft legislation that would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to repeal President Trump’s Travel Ban and block any future iterations based on national origin or religion. Along with a coalition of 116 civil rights, interfaith, and advocacy organizations, PAAIA sent a letter to incoming chairs of the House Judiciary and Oversight & Government Reform committees, requesting congressional hearings on the ban. You can learn more about our efforts to combat the Travel Ban and how the waiver process works by visiting our Travel Ban Page.
- On October 3rd, PAAIA released its 2018 National Public Opinion Survey of Iranian Americans, which revealed concerns over increased discrimination and U.S. policy towards Iran. A copy of the survey was sent to every congressional office, receiving 257 engagements with congressional staffer The poll shows that more than three-quarters of respondents are worried about increased discrimination against Iranian Americans, and nearly half (49%) report that they have personally experienced discrimination. Reflecting anxieties over policies that stigmatize the Iranian American community, seventy-seven percent (77%) of the respondents oppose President Trump’s Travel Ban, with over one-third indicating that they regularly receive visits from family and friends from Iran.Following our mission to inform policymakers on issues of importance to the Iranian American community, PAAIA held private briefings on our annual poll for House leadership, several House and Senate offices, and administration officials.
- From April 25th to April 27th, we hosted our Annual Leadership Retreat and Capitol Hill Days. PAAIA’s IA-100 members and Emerging Leaders met with over 20 different members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to discuss several issues of importance to the Iranian American community. Our policy recommendations included distinguishing between the Iranian people and the regime, expanding trade exemptions for telecommunications tools, avoiding unwarranted visa and immigration restrictions, and supporting the Iran Nuclear Deal (also known as the JCPOA).The retreat that followed our Hill meetings included a welcome dinner featuring our special guest, former Vice Presidential candidate Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), a series of speakers and panels containing distinguished individuals from multiple areas of expertise, a private tour of the stunning Royal Portraits from Qajar Iran and “Feast Your Eyes” exhibit of ancient Persian artifacts, and social dinner at the Smithsonian’s Freer | Sackler Galleries.
- PAAIA’s Public Sector Fellowships have done exceptionally well in 2018. This year we expanded the Ansari Fellowship, which seeks to encourage and empower young Iranian Americans to pursue careers in public service, to include graduate students as well as undergraduate students. The program had two fellows in 2018: Law student Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed interned at the Orange County Public Defender’s Office in the Write & Appeals Unit and dual Bachelor’s/Master’s student Neeki Memarzadeh interned in the office of Senator Cory Booker.In 2018, PAAIA’s Capitol Hill Internship Program (CHIP) provided three students the opportunity to intern on Capitol Hill and receive mentorship from Iranian Americans involved in the public sector. Our Spring Fellow, Josee Molavi, interned with Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD/8) as the office’s only press intern; our Summer Fellow, Amir Rezvani, spent his time in DC in the office of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and our Fall Fellow, Alex Soltany, interned in the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) as a health policy intern.
- In May of this year, PAAIA launched a digital campaign focused on the innovative power of the Iranian American community. The goal of the campaign was to foster greater understanding of the extensive contributions of Iranian Americans to American life. From eBay to Uber, Iranian Americans constantly invent or are involved in the creation of products and services that make life more livable. Our campaign highlights some of these specific contributions.
- The Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC), PAAIA’s connected PAC, continues to support a bipartisan group of candidates running for public office at the federal, state, and local level. For the 2017-18 election cycle, IAPAC contributed nearly $131,000 to candidates for public office and PAAIA members helped raise an additional $921,000 for our endorsed candidates. The Iranian American community had huge wins on election night when Zahra Karinshak, Anna Eskamani, and Anna Kaplan became the first Iranian American women elected to state legislatures, and Sam Hamadani became the first Iranian American judge elected in North Carolina.
- In response to the declining value of the Iranian Rial and the punitive impact of the re-imposition of sanctions on Iranian students in the U.S., PAAIA set up an Emergency Student Fund to help offset the cost of tuition for students completing their degrees.
- PAAIA has been advocating for the expansion of trade exemptions on telecommunication tools that would promote civil society in Iran. We have discussed this matter with numerous Congressional offices including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) who have introduced a resolution aiming to support the rights of Iranian protesters. The Royce-Engel resolution, which passed the House, encourages the administration to accelerate the license of communications technology to Iran and asks that technology companies refuse to cut off the Iranian people from communication platforms.
- PAAIA continues to urge the administration and members of Congress to enhance sanctions relief on telecommunication tools, food, and medicine for the Iranian people. We worked with Congressman Jared Huffman (CA-22nd) to urge the Trump administration to enable humanitarian trade for the Iranian people. We helped in garnering congressional support for his letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging him to ensure that U.S. sanctions do not block the flow of critical humanitarian goods to the Iranian people.
- PAAIA hosted our 4th Annual Nowruz on Capitol Hill in conjunction with our main Congressional sponsor, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren. Eight members of Congress attended the reception as well as more than 150 Congressional staff and special guests including Iranian American Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran Ambassador John Limbert.
- PAAIA’s IA-100 Fall Retreat brought members and Southern California guests to San Diego to learn from and engage with thought leaders and diverse voices regarding issues facing Iranian Americans and our nation, and to develop possible strategies to increase awareness of and engagement in initiatives that affect us. Our keynote speaker, Jake Sullivan, former Director of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Department, discussed the changing nature of American politics and U.S.-Iran relations.Other panels covered the ongoing impact of the Travel Ban and strategies to repeal it, the future of Iran, the need for an Iranian American Legal Defense Fund, and Iranian American identity and representation. Special guest, Congressman Scott Peters (D-CA), shared his thoughts on the state of our nation.
- In response to the zero-tolerance immigration policy initiated by the Trump Administration in May, PAAIA’s legislative counsel, Ali Rahnama, led efforts to send immigration attorneys to the border to help the separated families. Since the policy’s implementation, at least 2,342 children have been separated from their parents according to the Trump Administration. Many have been shipped miles away from where they entered the border and been placed in makeshift shelters. These children have to go through deportation proceedings alone and often end up placed with ‘sponsors,’ other relatives who will claim them, or in other care facilities rather than deported.With funding from an Iranian American entrepreneur and philanthropist, 9 immigration attorneys joined Rahnama in traveling to the Texas border to assess the situation, determine how best to help, begin assisting detainees on their legal cases, and take steps to reunite separated families. This team was one of the first groups of lawyers to travel to the detainees and provide on-ground assistance.
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reached out to the Iranian American community in July to speak about the Administration’s policies on Iran. Several PAAIA members had the opportunity to speak directly with the secretary and inform him of the near unanimous opposition that Iranian Americans have towards the Travel Ban and any form of military conflict with Iran. PAAIA members also highlighted the importance of enhancing sanctions relief on telecommunication tools, good, and medicine for the Iranian people, and cautioned support for opposition groups like the MEK.
- In response to Senator Lindsey Graham’s offensive comment about Iranian DNA, PAAIA sent a letter to Senator Graham, urging him to refrain from broad generalizations about the Iranian people and requesting a meeting with him.
- In August, PAAIA met with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in her district office to discuss the concerns of the Iranian American community. In addition to discussing the Travel Ban and its impact on our community, we also spoke about the 2020 Census and how to better support the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people.
- For Women’s History Month, PAAIA decided to highlight successful and inspiring Iranian American women on our social media platforms. The #IAWomen campaign included the co-founder of Big Bad Boo Studios Shabnam Rezaei; former Global Chief Marketing Officer at Hyatt Hotels Corporation Maryam Banikarim; NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli; dancer and choreographer Ida Saki; Director of the Merrikh Lab Houra Merrikh, and first Iranian American ambassador Azita Raji.
- PAAIA joined a coalition of Iranian American organizations to send a letter to the White House Chief of Staff and Acting Secretary of State, requesting an independent investigation into the ousting of civil servant Sahar Nowrouzzadeh from her position on the Policy Planning Staff of the State Department. The letter came after ranking members of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and House Foreign Affairs Committee explained that documents they received indicated “high level officials at the White House and State Department worked with a network of conservative activists to conduct a ‘cleaning’ of employees…” including Ms. Nowrouzzadeh.
- From June 6 to June 21, 2017, Zogby Research Services conducted a national telephone survey of Iranian Americans on behalf of PAAIA. Overall, 402 randomly selected respondents were interviewed for this year’s annual survey. Results show that more than one-half of Iranian Americans report having personally experienced discrimination because of their ethnicity, that they are concerned that this discrimination will increase in the future because of hostile rhetoric and policies, and that Iranian American organizations should focus on improving the image of Iranian Americans and protecting Iranian American civil rights.
- PAAIA members met with over 17 bipartisan Members of Congress for our 2017 Capitol Hill Days including Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Christ Murphy (D-CT), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Congresspersons Paul Ryan (R-WI), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Ed Royce (R-CA), and more. Our policy recommendations included avoiding implementation of unwarranted visa or immigration restrictions, expanding access to telecommunications tools in Iran, and supporting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
- PAAIA launched a digital campaign designed to proactively promote the image and build the profiles of Iranian Americans on a national scale. The campaign projected a truthful, positive image of our community as one of the most successful, well-assimilated diaspora communities in the U.S. This was accompanied by an update to our brand identity so that our organization would be more recognizable on the Hill and social media.
- On March 20th, we hosted our annual Nowruz reception on Capitol Hill in conjunction with Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren. Fourteen Members of Congress, including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, attended the reception, as well as more than 200 Congressional staff and special guests. The event was co-hosted by 23 Members of Congress.
- PAAIA’s Emerging Leaders program works with future leaders of the Iranian American community to help guide, collaborate, and facilitate discussions on ways the community can make a meaningful impact on the United States. From September 8th to September 10th, our Emerging Leaders convened to participate in the inaugural Emerging Leaders retreat.
- PAAIA’s IA-100 proudly hosted our annual Retreat and Gala for members and special guests at the Montage Beverley Hills on October 7th. The event assembled Iranian Americans from across the country, including elected officials, foreign policy and immigration experts, best-selling authors, and members of PAAIA’s Emerging Leaders to discuss critically important issues to the Iranian American community.
- The Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPCA), PAAIA’s connected PAC, continues to support a bipartisan group of candidates running for public office at the federal, state, and local level. In 2017, IAPAC directly contributed over $50,000 and helped fundraised over $550,000 for candidates and political committees.
- PAAIA Commissioned a Report to Strengthen Compliance on the Iran Nuclear Deal – Marking the one-year anniversary of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), PAAIA commissioned Global Impact Strategies (giStrat) to conduct a scientific report on compliance with the nuclear agreement between the P5+1 coalition and Iran. The report was released at the National Press Club, and a panel discussion was held to discuss its findings. The report was updated in November to account for the incoming Trump administration.
- Introduces New CHIP Fellow Aava Khajavi is the 2016 recipient of the Akbar Ghahary Capitol Hill Internship Program (CHIP). The program, which had two recipients in 2015, helps young Iranian Americans obtain internships on Capitol Hill. Aava writes about her experience working at the office of Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA) this spring.
- Supporting the Namazi Family PAAIA along with four other organizations sent a letter to Secretary John Kerry about Siamak Namazi who was wrongfully imprisoned in Iran in October 2015. We helped facilitate the introduction of Bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Congress calling on the Iranian government to immediately release Siamak Namazi and his father, Baquer Namazi.
- Receptions with Members of Congress PAAIA held a number of receptions with members of Congress including Congressman Honda (D-17th/CA), Senator Gillibrand (D-NY), and Senator Flake (R-AZ), and Senator Murphy (D-CT). The receptions presented an opportunity for PAAIA members and friends to engage the lawmakers in intimate settings and provide them with an opportunity to become more acquainted with the Iranian American community.
- PAAIA Releases Scorecard for the 114th CongressPAAIA released its Congressional Scorecard for the 114th Congress, which informs the public as to where members of Congress stand on issues of importance to the Iranian American community.
- Held a Congressional Briefing and Panel Discussion on a PAAIA poll and Iran after the Nuclear Deal On April 20, we held a congressional briefing to present our 2016 National Public Opinion Survey’s findings. Following the presentation, a panel of experts provided an in-depth discussion about the implementation of the nuclear deal, internal dynamics within Iran’s government, and the broader political developments within Iran.
- Nowruz Reception on Capitol Hill On March 16, we hosted our annual Nowruz reception for members of Congress and their staff on Capitol Hill in conjunction with a bipartisan group of eighteen members of Congress. The reception is part of PAAIA’s broader efforts to celebrate and foster greater understanding of Iranian culture, and to project an accurate and positive image of the Iranian American community.
- Campaign Support for Iranian AmericansIAPAC, the connected PAC of PAAIA, contributed over $90,000 to a bipartisan group of candidates running for public office at the federal, state, and local level. It also helped raise an additional $300,000 for our endorsed candidates by encouraging members to directly contribute to their campaigns. IAPAC played a key role in promoting the campaigns of various Iranian American individuals, including Lt. Governor-elect Cyrus Habib.
- PAAIA Opposes the Visa Integrity and Security Act The act mandates that the State Department complete individualized Security Advisory Opinions (SAO) on visa applicants who are nationals of one of seven countries including Iran. PAAIA’s statement to Congress, which discussed why the bill is unnecessary, counterproductive, and could improperly bar completely innocent foreigners from visiting the US due to their nationality, was quoted in the judiciary committee mark-up and submitted for the record.
- PAAIA Calls on President Obama to Rescind the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System PAAIA joined a coalition of advocacy, civil rights, and inter-faith organizations who wrote a letter urging President Obama to rescind the regulatory framework behind the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). The program proved to be an unsuccessful anti-terrorism tool and a discriminatory policy.
- Iranian American Organizations Contact the Office of Management and Budget in Support of MENA Category Along with several other Iranian American organizations, PAAIA sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget in support of the inclusion of a new Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) region category for the purposes of recording federal data on ethnicity.
- Supported Legislation that Will Revise the Visa Waiver Improvement Act Working with Senator Flake and Congressman Amash, PAAIA helped promote the “Equal Protection in Travel Act of 2016” which would remove the discriminatory dual nationality provision from the Visa Waiver Program reforms that were passed last year.
- Worked with Councilmember I. Daneek Miller to Introduce a Resolution Calling on Congress to Pass the “Equal Protection in Travel Act of 2016” The New York City Council Resolution urges Congress to pass this act because it would protect Iranian Americans and other Dual Nationals from the recent Visa Waiver Program reforms if it is passed.
- Joined 65 Organizations in Urging Congress to Fix the Discrimination in the VWP Reforms An impressive coalition of 65 different civil rights, faith, refugee, and humanitarian aid organizations, including PAAIA, joined together to send a letter to Congress, voicing their support for the bipartisan Equal Protection in Travel Act of 2016, proposed by Senator Flake (R-AZ). The legislation would strip the dual nationality provisions contained in the Visa Waiver Program reforms passed into law last year.
- Called for Executive Action to Protect Dual Nationals from VWP Discrimination 50 different national and local civil rights, faith, refugee, and non-profit organizations sent a joint letter to the Department of Homeland Security, calling for executive action to waive the discriminatory prohibitions based on national origin under the Visa Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act.
- On January 22nd, PAAIA collected names and contact information of individuals who support the addition of a Middle East North Africa category on the 2020 Census which would ensure that Iranians are counted. Those names were then sent to the Federal Register to show the community’s support.
- On February 15th, PAAIA wrote to Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy, expressing disapproval of the University’s new policy which banned Iranians from enrolling in graduate engineering programs.
- As it has done in previous years, PAAIA co-hosted it’s fifth annual Nowruz reception on Capitol Hill with sixteen members of Congress, attended by more than a hundred and fifty guests. PAAIA’s Nowruz reception on Capitol Hill is part of its broader effort to celebrate and foster greater understanding of Iranian culture in the U.S. Congress.
- On May 19th, PAAIA held a luncheon fostered dialogue between Iranian and American health communities. The luncheon brought together Chancellors from Iran’s leading medical schools with distinguished Iranian American doctors, in support of increased collaboration between the medical and public health communities of the United States and Iran, as a first step toward a larger health diplomacy project.
- On June 8th, PAAIA Executive Director and board member, Leila Golestaneh Austin, and board member Soroush Richard Shehabi wrote an Op-Ed for the Huffington Post about the Department of Justice’s discriminatory disqualification of Judge Tabaddor from all cases involving Iranians as premised on her role as a community leader in the Iranian American community.
- On June 19th, PAAIA held a congressional briefing to present the findings of its 2015 Survey of Iranian Americans and the American Public at large, followed by a panel discussion on the Iran nuclear negotiations. More than ninety congressional staffers attended.
- On June 22nd, PAAIA released the results and findings of its 2015 Survey of Iranian Americans and the American Public at large, followed by a panel discussion on the Iran nuclear negotiations. More than ninety congressional staffers attended.
- June 29th, thirty seven prominent Iranian Americans signed a PAAIA sponsored open letter urging the 2016 presidential candidates to refrain from broad generalizations about the Iranian people when discussing the prospective nuclear agreement taking shape between the P5+1 and Iran.
- On August 3rd, PAAIA launched a National Communications Campaign to inform the general oublis as well as U.S. lawmakers about the Iranian American community’s broad support for the Iran Nuclear deal. PAAIA’s advertisements have been aired on the Sunday morning news shows across the nation.
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.
- In February, PAAIA released a report titled “Re-establishing a U.S. Diplomatic Presence in Iran: Advancing U.S. National Security and Serving American Citizens.” The report, written by former U.S. Foreign Service Officer Ramin Asgard, finds that the establishment of a U.S. Interests Section in Iran would greatly advance U.S. national security and highlights the importance of an official U.S. presence to the Iranian American community.
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.
- In June, PAAIA released its sixth Annual National Public Opinion Survey of Iranian Americans and has since presented the survey results in meetings with members of Congress and their staff. In addition, PAAIA held a briefing on the survey results at the State Department and a panel presentation on Capitol Hill.
- 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 on
–going 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.
PAAIA PUBLIC POLICY CENTER
- In April, IA-100 released its fifth Annual National Public Opinion Survey of Iranian Americans and has since used this unique survey in meetings on Capitol Hill with members of Congress and their staff, at the White House, at the Department of State, and with other U.S. agencies.
- IA-100 actively educated members of Congress and administration staff regarding the importance of a direct banking link with Iran to ease the transfer of humanitarian assistance, family remittances, and student tuition/living expenses. We were pleased that the interim agreement between the P5+1 and Iran included language that supported the establishment of such a link.
- To assist Iranian students in dire financial need, through a matching grant from the International Institute of Education, IA-100 raised over $100,000 and provided grants to over 63 students, many of whom were able to pay for, complete, and obtain their degrees.
- As it has done in previous years, IA-100, in conjunction with Congressman Michael M. Honda (D-CA), Congressman J. Randy Forbes (R-VA), Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), hosted Nowruz on Capitol Hill, our annual Nowruz reception for members of Congress and congressional staff on Capitol Hill. In attendance were eleven members of Congress, including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), as well as more than a hundred congressional staff and special guests.
- To ensure that the Iranian American community is well-informed on the application of sanctions law, in October, IA-100 released its first video in an educational video series. The series provided information on the sanctions against Iran and what Iranian Americans need to know about how these sanctions may impact their lives.
FACILITATING THE PATH OF SUCCESS FOR OUR YOUTH Our younger generation continued to amaze and inspire us throughout 2013.
- On August 2-4, PAAIA NexGen held its inaugural NexGen Leadership Conference (NLC) at the Harvard Kennedy School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, bringing together over sixty Iranian American young professionals and students from across the United States with the goal of creating a strong network of future leaders in our community.
- Through the 2012-2013 Mentorship Program, more than 30 members of the next generation worked with accomplished Iranian American mentors for a 9-month dialogue around how to identify and pursue their desired career and professional goals.
- The new Opportunities for Growth, High Achievement and Betterment (OGHAB) Internship Program placed four young Iranian Americans in internships all over the country, giving them an opportunity to learn about and gauge their interest in their field of study through hands-on experience in a structured work environment.
- The Capitol Hill Internship Program (CHIP) placed five qualified young Iranian Americans in Congressional, federal or local administration offices, where they learned more about the legislative process firsthand.
PROMOTING OUR CULTURE AND HERITAGE
- IA-100 is the proud sponsor of an exhibition celebrating Persian literature and language at the Library of Congress. This first-ever exhibition, A Thousand Years of the Persian Book, opening in March 2014, will provide a glimpse into the Library’s unique Persian collections and the important role that the Persian language has played in world history.
- IA-100, through the generous sponsorship of Hamid and Christina Moghadam and Bita Daryabari and Dr. Reza Malek, was one of the proud sponsors of the San Francisco leg of the Cyrus Cylinder Tour at the Asian Art Museum. Hundreds of people joined IA-100 for the exhibition’s opening weekend activities, which included PAAIA’s annual gala and award ceremony, annual trustee retreat and dinner reception, and the world premiere of “The King Cyrus Symphonic Suite: From Birth to the Proclamation of Human Rights” by Loris Tjeknovarian.
- PAAIA Inc. was instrumental in the introduction of the Cyrus Cylinder and Nowruz Resolution presented by members of Congress. The resolution acknowledged that the Cyrus Cylinder has, over the centuries, come to symbolize one of mankind’s first documents on human rights and connected the Iranian New Year to the values of human rights.
PROGRAMS FOR OUR COMMUNITY
- In March, as part of its Nowruz Project, IA-100 provided a new set of resources for elementary school Iranian American families and parents wishing to provide information about Nowruz to their child’s school. To date, over 2,000 students and educators have benefited from the resources provided through the Nowruz Project.
- PAAIA NexGen and IA-100 chapters throughout the United States celebrated Nowruz, the Persian New Year, by participating in a number of local events, including participating in the Sackler Gallery of Art Nowruz celebrations (Washington DC), joining with the Iranian Cultural Foundation of Houston to celebrate Nowruz with dancing, music, and other entertainment (Houston), and participating in the annual Nowruz Parade through the streets of New York City. In Los Angeles and other cities, members were at hand to celebrate Nowruz Resolutions that were introduced and passed through various city councils.
- In January, IA-100 hosted a screening on Capitol Hill of the documentary “The Iran Job,” the real-life story of an American basketball player in Iran. The event was organized by IA-100 specifically for Congressional staff, as well as administration officials and individuals working for non-governmental agencies in Washington, D.C.
- IA-100 teamed up with the Noor Iranian Film Festival (NIFF), the first Iranian film festival competition outside of Iran, to bring the “Best of Noor Iranian Film Festival” to sold-out crowds in San Francisco and San Diego.
- PAAIA and Noor Iranian Film Festival brought world-renowned filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s “The Gardener” to Los Angeles for a week-long run from August 2 – August 8, 2013.
- In commemoration of the Cyrus Cylinder tour, IA-100 hosted a screening of the documentary, Recreating Pasargadae, produced by historian Farzin Rezaeian. The documentary provides a glimpse into Cyrus the Great’s palace and offers a graphical view of how the building and grounds had been developed and maintained.
- IA-100 was the proud sponsor of the Iranian American Women’s Foundation Leadership Conference held in New York City in October, where around 600 Iranian American women gathered to hear and learn from their peers, many of whom shared their professional and educational insights with the audience.
- PAAIA chapters joined forces to celebrate Thanksgiving, Persian style. As in years past, volunteers in Houston and San Diego “adopted” a local shelter, food kitchen, or other public entity and prepared and served food to shelter/food kitchen guests.
PAAIA, INC. ACCOMPLISHMENTS
- In April, PAAIA INC sent a letter to the Obama administration urging the president to implement recommendations to establish clear channels for humanitarian trade and family remittances to and from Iran. The ITR was updated in June and we were pleased that in September, OFAC issued two licenses that authorized humanitarian-related activities by nongovernmental organizations in Iran, as well as athletic exchanges between Iran and the United States.
- Through the year, we communicated our concerns for the well-being and continued education of these students to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). We were pleased that the interim deal brokered between the P5+1 and Iran included language regarding assistance for Iranian students.
- Our relationships on Capitol Hill were of significant value during the latter part of November, when the consideration of new sanctions legislation in the Senate threatened to undermine the P5+1 negotiations with Iran. PAAIA INC was the author of a letter sent to leaders in the Senate, signed by numerous other Iranian American organizations, which strongly recommended the pursuit of a diplomatic option at this juncture in Iran – US history.
- Throughout 2013, PAAIA INC mobilized our community to support legislation acknowledging Nowruz and the Cyrus Cylinder as well as the establishment of a national museum of the American people, which would include immigrant populations such as Iranian Americans.
- In October, IA-100 contacted Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Representative Trent Franks, (R-AZ/8th) and numerous other members of Congress to express our concerns about the introduction of legislation that, among other things, would authorize the president of the United States to use military force against Iran.
THE IRANIAN AMERICAN POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE ACCOMPLISHMENTS
- In 2013, the Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC), the affiliated PAC of PAAIA, contributed $40,000 to a bipartisan group of members of Congress, congressional party committees, and Iranian American candidates for public office.
- It also helped raise an additional $240,000 for our endorsed candidates.
- IAPAC played a key role in promoting the campaigns of various Iranian American individuals, such as Darius Shahinfar of New York, who on November 5th was elected as the City Treasurer for Albany. The election marked the second time an Iranian American has been voted to public office in the state of New York.
PAAIA accomplished all that it had set out to do in 2012 and more. Through our activities and programs, we were able to continuously provide an accurate image of our community, strengthen our voice, and facilitate the path of success for our youth. In addition, our newly launched Public Policy Center quickly became the credible and go-to organization for unbiased, illuminating information about the Iranian American community. A summary of some of our activities in support of our pillars and goals are provided below. Our Image: We started the year by holding PAAIA’s sixth Passing the Torch of Success to high acclaim and a sold-out crowd of 700 in San Diego, California. Spring saw us celebrate Nowruz in style. Over 700 elementary school students, teachers, and parents benefited from the Nowruz Project and the resources developed by PAAIA on Nowruz and Iran. We also celebrated Nowruz on Capitol Hill. Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA) and Congressman J. Randy Forbes (R-VA) cosponsored a reception where numerous members of Congress, over 100 staff members, and other guests joined us to celebrate this ancient tradition. The reception provided an opportunity to demonstrate how intricately our community is woven into the economic and social fabric of the United States. In mid-summer, following the tragic earthquake in Iran, PAAIA used our strong relationships on Capitol Hill and with the Administration to help encourage the issuance of a general license to provide humanitarian relief to the victims of the earthquake. We were also pleased to actively collaborate with and provide information to the Iranian American community on organizations providing relief to the victims. In addition to providing and raising funds for the movie The Iran Job and the PBS documentary The Iranian Americans, we celebrated the accomplishments of individual members of our community. These included, but were not limited to, five amazing Iranian Americans who were among many others honored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York for their success as immigrants, those highlighted by American Banker magazine for their accomplishment in the field of finance, and three young men who made significant contributions in the fields of engineering, physics, and medicine. We also actively reached out to other Iranian American organizations to identify opportunities for collaboration and have made strides in forming new and effective partnerships, such as those in support of the upcoming Cyrus Cylinder Tour of the US. Cost and process efficiencies coupled with an active and capable staff and the place we hold in the Iranian American community as a viable and impactful organization has allowed us to make significant strides in promoting the needs of our rich and diverse community. Our Voice: In April 2012, PAAIA launched the PAAIA Public Policy Center, a much needed venue for providing accurate, objective, and balanced information about the Iranian American community and the issues that are important to us. Under the center’s activities, we held three educational and timely panel presentations on issues related to U.S.-Iran relations at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, University of California Washington Center, and the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. We also participated in a meeting at the White House on engaging the Iranian American community and followed up with additional meetings with the White House, State Department, and other administration staff. We conducted our fourth Annual Survey of Iranian Americans, this time with focus on possible military action against Iran, and held briefings on the survey results with State Department officials and members of Congress and their staffs. Additionally, two reports published by PAAIA, the 2012 Iran Sanctions Report and the 2011 – 2012 Congressional Scorecard, offered balanced and detailed information on issues that are important to our community. We are proud that all of our reports are routinely used by policymakers, the general public, and the media to better understand our community, our views, and the issues that impact us. To encourage civic participation during this important election year, PAAIA, through our 2012 Election Guide, provided information on how to register to vote as well as comprehensive information on the two primary presidential candidates and their positions on issues important to our community. The Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC), the affiliated PAC of PAAIA, also played an instrumental role in ensuring that our voice was heard in Washington DC as well as in districts, counties, and states throughout the country. In 2012, IAPAC contributed $90,000 to a bipartisan group of 16 members of Congress, all four congressional party committees, and 9 Iranian American candidates for public office. It also helped raise an additional $621,000 for our endorsed candidates by encouraging Iranian Americans and others to directly contribute to their campaigns. IAPAC played a key role in promoting the campaigns of various Iranian American individuals, such as Cyrus Habib of Washington, who on November 6th became the first Iranian American to be elected to the state legislature. Our Youth: The future could not be brighter for the younger generation in our community, and PAAIA’s NexGen is pleased to continuously play its part in facilitating this ongoing success. This year, members of NexGen provided hundreds of hours of community service. They actively participated in the electoral process by volunteering in presidential campaigns, signing up voters, fundraising, and holding educational events. Our third annual Mentorship Program commenced in September 2012 with over 30 mentors and mentees who will be working collaboratively during a nine month period. Our 2012 – 2013 class of mentees has been highly engaged, participatory, and already empowered by this experience. The PAAIA Capitol Hill Internship Program (CHIP) began placing interns on Capitol Hill beginning in June 2012. The summer and fall CHIP programs were managed flawlessly. In 2013, we will augment CHIP by working with the White House to identify possible additional opportunities through their internship program. PAAIA NexGen also established the NexGen Leadership Circle, bringing together accomplished young Iranian Americans for networking, mentorship, and collaboration opportunities. Thank You! We could not have accomplished the above without your continued support. We are thankful for the opportunity to be able to serve as the credible voice of our community in the United States and to offer programs that further strengthen our community, our voice, and our youth. We hope you will join us in doing so. To become a member of PAAIA, click here. To contribute to our programs, click here.
Programs for the Next Generation: PAAIA’s programs for the next generation are focused on assisting our youth increase their career capabilities, achieve personal and professional growth, better understand their Iranian American heritage, and become more involved in the community. NexGen – The NexGen National Organizing Committee (NOC) has developed a number of programs, such as the National Day of Service, that brings together the younger generation as they work together towards one goal. In addition, they sponsor local and national events, including educational forums and an annual retreat that allows for networking, socializing, and professional and personal development opportunities. If you are interested in participating in NexGen events, click here. Mentorship Program – PAAIA will offer its signature Mentorship Program for the third year. This program matches and connects young Mentees with experienced Mentors for a dialogue around how to identify and pursue their desired career and professional goals. The program, open to PAAIA members for free, gives the younger generation access to industry leaders across the nation. If you are interested in becoming a mentor, applying as a mentee, or learning more about the Mentorship Program, click here. Capitol Hill Internship Program (CHIP) – COMING SUMMER of 2012 – PAAIA’s CHIP is focused on serving young Iranian American college students/recent graduates who seek to increase their professional experiences in the legislative and political arena. Getting an internship on Capitol Hill is a great way to get started on a career in public service. Individuals who are selected for the program and matched with a Congressional Office will receive a monthly stipend from PAAIA. Stay tuned for the official announcement about this great new program. Programs for the Community In addition to becoming more involved in local chapters, PAAIA members can participate in or benefit from the many programs we offer for the communities in which we reside. Below are two such programs: Passing the Torch of Success – An ongoing series of educational and inspirational events aimed primarily at youth and organized by members of the PAAIA Board and local Chapters, these events put the spotlight on highly accomplished Iranian Americans in different fields who share their career experiences and the secrets of their success with the audience from the stage. Previous Passing the Torch events have been presented to sold-out crowds in Los Angeles, Orange County, New York, Berkeley, and Washington DC. The next event will be held on January 29, 2012 in San Diego. For more information on and videos of the Passing the Torch of Success events, click here. The Nowruz Project – The Nowruz Project began in 2011 and is being refined for the 2012 celebrations of this ancient Persian tradition. PAAIA has developed a set of resources aimed at elementary school children. Parents can download these resources from our website and use at their children’s schools to bring about awareness about Iran, Nowruz, and our culture. The program was used with over 700 children in the US during its debut year and we are certain that it will exceed that number this year. To use the Nowruz Project resources or learn more, click here. If you are interested in participating in your local chapter, click here for a list of chapters and their contact information. Programs that Help Build Our Influence PAAIA works diligently to make sure that our voice is heard within the U.S. political environment. In 2012 we will be holding briefings regarding our 2011 Survey of Iranian Americans, which you can view here, to educate Congressional and Administration personnel on demographic and attitudinal information about the Iranian American community. We will continue our collaborations with policy makers, which resulted in the passing of the Nowruz Resolution in 2010 and the changing of the single-entry visa policy for Iranian students in 2011. In addition, we will continue to make contributions to candidates for public process who care about the domestic concerns of our community through PAAIA’s political action committee, IAPAC. We strongly encourage you to become active in the U.S. democratic office by obtaining more information about IAPAC (click here) and learning about candidates who can be a voice for our community. Highlighting our Accomplishments As an organization of Iranian Americans, we are proud and will continue to highlight the accomplishments of our fellow Iranian Americans, such as Shervin Lalezary, the young California deputy who caught the Hollywood arson suspect, whose story you can read here. Cyrus Amir-Mokri, first Iranian American to be appointed as U.S. Treasury Assistant, whose story you can read here. Gisou & Mojgan Hariri, sister architects who were recently featured in Architectural Digest’s New AD100, which you can view here. Dr. Kaveh Alizadeh, President of Long Island Plastic Surgical Group, leads Mission: Restore to perform reconstructive plastic surgery in Iran, whose story you can read here. Please know that we cannot accomplish our goals without your support and your involvement. The financial support and active participation of our trustees, major donors, and members in our local chapters helps us develop and implement programs that strengthen our community. Your assistance in building our membership and participation in the democratic process helps us have our voice heard and builds our influence. Your support and involvement in the programs we have developed for NexGen will help us pave the wave for the next generation of Iranian Americans and thus, our future, in this country.
Since its public launch in April 2008 PAAIA has made significant strides towards accomplishing its mission. Some of the highlights are: 1. Nationwide Members, Chapters, and NexGen – In the 3 years since its public launch, PAAIA’s membership now exceeds 6,000 members, who are active through eight local PAAIA Chapters, and young volunteer groups called Nex/Gen, in cities with large concentrations of Iranian Americans, including LA, Orange County, San Diego, the Bay Area, Chicago, Houston, NY Tri-State, and DC Metropolitan. 2. National statistical surveys – In striving to become the leading source of accurate information about the Iranian American community, in 2008, PAAIA commissioned Zogby International, a nationally recognized pollster, to survey the community’s attitudes on important issues, with a follow-up survey in 2009. These invaluable data were the first of their kind and have been presented to the United States Congress, the media, and the general public to wide acclaim. 3. Iranian American success stories – PAAIA has played a leading role in recognizing and celebrating the contributions of Iranian Americans. It has produced and disseminated high-quality video profiles, Profiles of Iranian Americans, and continues to feature them in a weekly newsletter online. 4. Passing the Torch of Success – PAAIA’s board-driven signature event, Passing the Torch of Success, invites highly accomplished Iranian Americans to share their insights and experience with the audience from the stage. Following the inaugural event in Los Angeles in May 2009, Passing the Torch was hosted in Orange County, New York City, Berkeley, and Houston. The next events are being planned in Washington, D.C. in September of 2011 and San Diego, CA in January of 2012. 5. Mentoring the next generation – One of PAAIA’s core tenets is to serve as a bridge to the future. An example is the PAAIA Mentorship Program. Launched in spring 2010, this program matches students and early to mid-career professionals with PAAIA’s board, trustees and other professional associates who volunteer to mentor the younger generation to help them shape and/or advance their academic and career goals. 6. Cultural events – PAAIA has supported and sponsored selective cultural events, including an unprecedented exhibition of contemporary Iranian and Iranian American artists at New York’s avant-garde Chelsea Museum titled, “Iran Inside-Out”, and “Iranian Sounds of Peace,” a groundbreaking, sold-out concert at the Carnegie Hall in New York that featured the legendary, innovative musicians, Shahram and Hafez Nazeri. 7. Collaboration – PAAIA welcomes collaboration to achieve greater impact. In March 2009, PAAIA entered into a partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau at the Bureau’s initiative and coordinated efforts with a small coalition of organizations to secure an accurate count of Iranian Americans. By March 2010, the Iranians Count 2010 Census Coalition (ICCC) grew into an unprecedented 47-member partnership and produced a public awareness campaign that succeeded in reaching Iranian Americans across the U.S. 8. Political campaigns – Since the 2008 election cycle, IAPAC has contributed $141,000 to a bipartisan group of 30 members of Congress, all four congressional party committees, and 12 Iranian American candidates for public office. It has also helped raise an additional $2.5 million for its endorsed candidates and party committees by encouraging Iranian Americans to directly contribute to their campaign committees. 9. U.S. Congress & the Administration – PAAIA/IAPAC has proactively brought issues of interest to the Iranian American community before the U.S. Congress. Staff initiated discussions with, and met with over 30 members of Congress and/or their staff to help draft and build bipartisan support for the Nowruz Resolution, which passed both chambers of Congress in March 2010 with over 70 co-sponsors. Following an effort by several of its Board members and Trustees who had direct access to influential members of Congress and the Administration, PAAIA was proud to see the fruits of its direct appeal complement community efforts and helped bring change to the visa policy for Iranian students announced by the Obama Administration in May of 2011. PAAIA also organized a “Network of Iranian Americans in Public Service” and held four networking receptions in Washington, DC for Iranian Americans employed in Congress and the executive branch. 10. Promoting Iranian Culture & Giving Back to the Community – In 2011 PAAIA developed a set of resources aimed at elementary school children that were made available on our web site. PAAIA Chapters used the resources to spread Iranian culture and heritage to their communities by bringing Nowruz to their local elementary schools. In 2010 PAAIA chapters with the help of 18 sponsors from the community took food and clothing to eight shelters & crisis centers in California and received numerous positive feedbacks from the American community. 11. Defending Community Interests – In January of 2011, Stanford University’s president, Dr. John Hennessy, issued a statement to PAAIA assuring that controversial remarks about Iranians made by a retired faculty member does not reflect the university’s views or admission policies. In 2010, due to PAAIA’s efforts, the professional networking website LinkedIn placed Iran back on their education drop-down menu from where it had been removed and the American Values Network (AVN) dropped an anti-oil ad campaign that targeted Iran in favor of a new concept that promotes clean energy but shields innocent Iranians and Iranian Americans from a bad image.