Academics Against Sanctions

Image for post
Image for post

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) joins dozens of prominent academics in calling on the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to reform overly broad sanctions that hamper academic exchange. The letter comes amid disturbing reports of Iranian students being dropped or deferred by U.S. universities amid new COVID-19 restrictions. For students from Iran and other sanctioned countries, continuing their education remotely is not an option because of U.S. sanctions that prevent them from accessing necessary online services and technology. OFAC should hear the call of this letter’s signatories and take immediate steps to remove sanctions barriers for students seeking to continue their higher education remotely during this unprecedented time.

The full text of the letter can be found below and in PDF form here.

September 21, 2020

Andrea M. Gacki
Director, Office of Foreign Assets Control
U.S. Department of Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20220

Dear Ms. Gacki,

As academics from higher-learning institutions across the United States, we write to urge the U.S. Department of Treasury to closely examine the impact of overly-broad sanctions on both international students and free academic exchange. Such sanctions do not appear to serve any valid national interest, while needlessly harming those pursuing an education and seeking to contribute to global public knowledge, science and health.

New restrictions on international students amid the COVID-19 pandemic will unfortunately be exacerbated by U.S. sanctions. Given the Department of Homeland Security’s recent order barring new students from the United States who would be taking online-only classes, many universities have already announced that sanctions prevent them from offering online coursework to individuals in sanctioned countries, including Iran. Likewise, many technology companies have also barred individuals from sanctioned companies from accessing many of their services, including Apple, Amazon and Google.

This serves no national interest, while needlessly turning away bright individuals who could better their own country and the world through education at some of the best universities in the world.

Additionally, we fear that U.S. sanctions needlessly restrict broader academic exchanges between the U.S. and sanctioned countries, including those aimed at advancing scientific knowledge or public health. For example, the Neuromatch Academy — an online 2.5 week computational neuroscience course involving thousands of students in 65 countries — was advised by lawyers that it had to drop scores of Iranian students and teaching assistants from joining as a result of U.S. sanctions. Despite the fact that neuroscience has no adverse national security impact, the summer school program still unexpectedly found itself restricted by U.S. sanctions.

An urgent appeal to the Treasury Department secured a last-minute license for Neuromatch. However, we fear that many similar academic exchanges either would not secure a license or would not even attempt to secure one.

As academics committed to fostering greater global knowledge and understanding, we strongly oppose the use of sanctions to punish students or inhibit individuals from furthering their education solely based on their nation of origin. As a result, we call on OFAC to immediately revise its sanctions statutes and authorize all activities necessary for individuals in sanctioned countries to access online coursework and academic exchanges, and clearly communicate those policies to academic institutions across the United States.

Signatures (institutions are for affiliation purposes only):

Arash Ashrafnejad, Bilkent University

Dr. Alexandra Badea, Duke University

Dr. Narges Bajoghli, John Hopkins University

Dr. Shahab Bakhtiari, McGill University

Dr. Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Virginia Tech

Dr. Edward Bracey, ETH Zurich

Dr. Matteo Carandini, University College London

Dr. Juan Cole, University of Michigan

Dr. Julia Elyachar, Princeton University

Dr. Hadi Esfahani, Universitiy of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

Dr. Farideh Farhi, University of Hawai’i at Manoa

Dr. Roozbeh Farhoodi, University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Behrooz Ghamari Tabrizi, Princeton University

Azaadeh Goharzad, University of Delaware

Dr. Niloofar Haeri, John Hopkins University

Dr. Lara Harb, Princeton University

Dr. Kevan Harris, UCLA

Dr. Meysam Hashemi, Aix Marseille

Dr. Mohammad Ali Kadivar, Boston College

Dr. Mohsen Kadivar, Duke University

Dr. Arang Keshavarzian, New York University

Dr. Daniel Khashabi, Allen Institute for AI

Dr. Mana Kia, Columbia University

Dr. Konrad Kording, University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Eric Kuebler, Western University Canada

Dr. Satyel Larson, Princeton University

Dr. Tyler Manning, University of California, Berkeley

Dulce Mariscal, University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Ali Mirsepassi, New York University

Dr. Manijeh Moradian, Barnard College

Hadi Nekoei, Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms

Neuromatch Academy

Dr. Stephanie Noble, Yale University

Erfan Noury, University of Maryland at Baltimore County

Dr. Trita Parsi, Georgetown University

Shannon Proksch, University of California, Merced

Dr. Assal Rad, National Iranian American Council

Ameet Rahane, Northwestern University

Dr. Nasrin Rahimieh, University of California, Irvine

Professor Davood N. Rahni, Ph.D, Pace University

Dr. Negar Razavi, Northwestern University

Dr. Marina Rustow, Princeton University

Dr. Ahmad Sadri, Lake Forest College

Dr. Muhammad Sahimi, University of Southern California

Dr. Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, Virginia Tech

Dr. Fatemeh Shams, University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Sussan Siavoshi, Trinity University

Dr. Daniel Sheffield, Princeton University

Dr. Marshall Shuler, John Hopkins University

Milad Soltanzadeh, Concordia University

Dr. Ali Toossi, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

Dr. Sabah Ul-Hasan, The Scripps Research Institute

Dr. M Reza Vaghefi, University of N. Florida

Dr. Max Weiss, Princeton University

NIAC

National Iranian American Council

Written by

Nonpartisan nonprofit empowering the Iranian-American community. Promoting diplomacy, human rights, and greater understanding between America and Iran since '02

NIAC

NIAC

Nonpartisan nonprofit empowering the Iranian-American community. Promoting diplomacy, human rights, and greater understanding between America and Iran since ‘02.

National Iranian American Council

Written by

Nonpartisan nonprofit empowering the Iranian-American community. Promoting diplomacy, human rights, and greater understanding between America and Iran since '02

NIAC

NIAC

Nonpartisan nonprofit empowering the Iranian-American community. Promoting diplomacy, human rights, and greater understanding between America and Iran since ‘02.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store