Last week, Iranian Americans from across the country visited Capitol Hill as part of NIAC’s annual leadership conference to encourage their Representatives to send a Congressional letter urging the White House to extend the earthquake relief waiver and to take further action to enable food and medicine to reach Iranians.
“Iranian Americans will be encouraged that the Obama Administration’s responded to their calls to address the emergency situation in northern Iran,” said NIAC Policy Director Jamal Abdi. “But more must be done to address another unfolding emergency – the worsening humanitarian situation created by sanctions that are blocking medicine and food for ordinary people across Iran.”
The earthquake waiver, which was first issued in August after deadly earthquakes struck northern Iran, is intended to allow American charities to send direct humanitarian aid to help with relief efforts in Iran. In addition to earthquake relief, food, medicine, and humanitarian goods are already legally exempt from sanctions, but are increasingly difficult to export to Iran due to Executive Order sanctions on Iran’s banks.
“Even with the waiver, it is extremely difficult to provide humanitarian relief or even to send authorized items like medicine and food to Iran,” said Abdi. “U.S. sanctions on Iranian banks are blocking authorized transactions for food and medicine. The result is food and medicine shortages that are punishing ordinary Iranians who are not even in the earthquake zone.”
Some relief organizations have been forced to fly suitcases of cash into Iran in order to provide earthquake relief. And reports out of Iran point to shortages of medicine and food as resulting directly from the U.S. banking sanctions on Iran.
“The U.S. must take additional steps to demonstrate that we will not allow ordinary Iranians to be held hostage to the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program,” said Abdi. “We cannot allow for a repeat of the Iraq sanctions that contributed to the deaths of at least 375 thousand children.”
NIAC thanks Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and the eleven cosigners of the letter to the Administration, and calls on the Obama Administration to take the additional steps necessary so that food, medicine, and humanitarian relief can reach Iran.
There are a number of nonprofit organizations working to provide disaster assistance, including Moms Against Poverty, Relief International, Children of Persia, and Child Foundation. The waiver now applies until November 19.