Yesterday, I had the honor of meeting President Obama in the White House. My name is Forough Parvizian-Yazdani, and I am a board member of the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC).
I was invited as a representative of NIAC to witness President Obama sign the recent sanctions bill into law. Even though NIAC opposed the bill, we accepted the White House’s invitation in order to continue our dialogue concerning Iran policy with the aim of reaching an approach that helps ordinary citizens, resolves tensions, avoids war and promotes human rights. Only 10 out of the 60 seats were reserved, and NIAC was honored with one of them.
In my conversation with President Obama, I emphasized NIAC's desire for a policy approach that addresses the human rights violations in Iran, and I pointed out the detrimental effects of the sanctions regime on ordinary people.
The President agreed with our concerns for the people of Iran, and told me he emphasized human rights in his speech for that very reason.
Once again, NIAC gave us Iranian Americans a voice. A voice that needs to be strengthened and spread throughout the country on every level.
The influence of those who, together with NIAC, have pushed for greater focus on human rights was evident in President Obama's speech and in the human rights measures that were inserted into the final sanctions bill. But that influence was not enough to shift the paradigm away from sanctions that will hurt innocent Iranians, and so we still have work to do to amplify the voice of the Iranian-American community.
While I was sitting in the East Room of the White House, I was overwhelmed with excitement, pride, and exhilaration but also disappointed because I witnessed policy towards Iran being shaped and implemented by groups that were concerned primarily with pressuring Iran on its nuclear program, not standing up for the human rights of the Iranian people. Of course, both of these issues must be considered when shaping policy towards Iran, and NIAC gave me the chance to tell the President this directly.
Much has been gained over the years, and through NIAC, Iranian Americans have clearly secured a seat at the table – but much more remains to be achieved.
We need NIAC, but more importantly, NIAC needs us. It is the support of NIAC’s nationwide grassroots network that keeps our voice strong
The conversation with Obama will continue next week and beyond, and with your support, I am confident that our voice will not only be raised – it will be heard.
Forough Parvizian-Yazdani, DDS
Board of Directors
P.S. Read President Obama’s statement
P.P.S. Read NIAC’s statement on the signing of the Iran sanctions bill
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