August 13, 2012
ATTN: Adam J. Szubin
Office of Foreign Assets Control
United States Department of Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. – Annex
Washington D.C. 20220
Re: Impact of U.S. Sanctions on Earthquake Relief Efforts in Iran
Dear Mr. Szubin,
As you may know, on Saturday, August 11, 2012, two earthquake measuring 6.4 and 6.3 on the Richter Scale struck the northwestern region of Iran near the towns of Tabriz and Ahar. According to the most recent news reports from Reuters News Agency, at least 300 people have died, more than 5,000 have been injured, and over 130 villages have been destroyed as a result of these earthquakes.
Relief agencies inside Iran have reached the area and are beginning to assist the survivors, and some international organizations have pledged support to send supplies to help those in need. However, given the widespread devastation the earthquake has caused, much more aid and relief assistance is needed to reach these victims. The Iranian American Bar Association (IABA), the Iranian Alliances Across Borders (IAAB), the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA), Child Foundation, Children of Persia, Havaar-Iranian Initiative Against War, Sanctions, and State Repression, Moms Against Poverty, Pars Equality Center, and United 4 Iran are concerned that the current United States sanctions targeting Iran will hinder the immediate humanitarian relief that is needed by these the victims now. This coalition of Iranian American organizations are reaching out to OFAC to request the following:
- A public statement of OFAC’s licensing policy concerning the licensing of transactions by humanitarian agencies working on earthquake relief in Iran so that they may immediately begin providing aid to the victims of the earthquake in Iran or begin applying for specific licenses to do so. We respectfully request that this statement reference any existing general licenses and exemptions under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) that may apply to earthquake and/or humanitarian relief;
- Expedited review of OFAC specific license applications submitted by organizations seeking to assist the earthquake victims;
- Issuance of a general license, similar to the one issued following the 2003 earthquake in Bam, Iran, to enable relief organizations to provide services in Iran; and
- Public guidance to foreign and domestic financial institutions assuring them that they are permitted to process transactions on behalf of U.S. persons related to earthquake relief efforts in Iran.
This coalition will also issue a press statement to its members, reminding them that sending food and medicine to Iran are currently legal under the humanitarian exemption of the current sanctions. We also note that the victims need much more than food and medicine and the best way for Americans to assist is by sending money to relief organizations, allowing them to provide immediate supplies to the victims and assisting them in rebuilding the demolished homes and villages.
In this time of human need and tragedy we must ensure innocent victims are not hindered by the politics of sanctions. We hope that the Obama administration will act quickly on this urgent matter.
Iranian American Bar Association
Iranian Alliances Across Borders
National Iranian American Council
Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans
Children of Persia
Havaar-Iranian Initiative Against War, Sanctions, and State Repression
Moms Against Poverty
Pars Equality Center
United 4 Iran
cc: Linda Specht, Department of State
Andrea Gacki, Department of Treasury
Adam Smith, Department of Treasury