Last Updated on May 6, 2020.
WASHINGTON — Today, 34 members of Congress sent a joint letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin urging temporary relief of U.S. sanctions on Iran to help reduce human suffering, increase access to medical supplies, and strengthen the Iranian people’s ability to confront the coronavirus crisis. As the letter states “Pandemics know no borders. Allowing this crisis to become more dire in Iran threatens significant harm not only to the people of Iran but also to people in the United States and around the world.”
The #EndCOVIDSanctions campaign — a nationwide coalition of progressive organizations and grassroots activists working to end the U.S.’s deadly blanket sanctions on Iran — fully supports this letter. We applaud all signers, and particularly commend the champions who put it forth: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Jared Huffman, and Joaquin Castro and Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Ed Markey.
This congressional letter comes after the #EndCOVIDSanctions campaign sent a joint organizational letter with similar demands earlier this month, and on the heels of a national petition and call-in campaign to the U.S. Treasury Department, and specifically the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC).
“The global coronavirus crisis should be a wake-up call,” said Erica Fein, Advocacy Director at Win Without War. “Human security is tied across borders. We can’t bomb, sanction, or otherwise strong-arm our way to safety. In the face of shared global problems, from the climate crisis to pandemics, we must rethink our approach to human security, and build a foreign policy that puts international solidarity and collaboration first.”
Ryan Costello, Policy Director at National Iranian American Council (NIAC) Action, said: “The Iranian people will remember which nations came to their assistance in their hour of need, and which chose to maintain senseless sanctions to their detriment. Half measures, as attempted by the administration thus far, won’t be sufficient to prevent sanctions from inhibiting humanitarian trade and punishing ordinary Iranians. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Sanders, along with all signers, deserve tremendous credit for leading this timely and bold effort that would deliver real relief and help contain the pandemic.”
“I’m scared for my friends who are healthcare workers in Iran,” said Nahid Soltanzadeh, Digital Organizing Fellow at MPower Change. “They are paying the price of U.S. sanctions, while being portrayed by the Iranian government as soldiers and martyrs. Broad-based sanctions don’t ‘target governments.’ Just like wars, they kill ordinary people.” Says Nahid Soltanzadeh, an Iranian digital organizer at MPower Change. “Iranians have been fighting for their own liberation and self-determination for years — sanctions have only hurt our cause. A global pandemic calls for global solidarity and justice. And that’s why MPower Change members are calling on Sec. Mnuchin to suspend sanctions now.”
Hoda Katebi, Iranian-American community organizer with the No War Campaign, said: “My loved ones live in Iran, and I am deeply concerned for their lives. My aunt is a doctor on the frontlines and has seen first-hand the massive shortages of medical supplies in hospitals. Dozens of Iranian doctors have already died for this reason. And every day that violent U.S. sanctions continue to block Iran’s ability to fight coronavirus, the death toll continues to rapidly rise. If this virus has taught us anything, it is that our health and lives are deeply connected and interdependent on a global scale. The US must do its part in flattening the global curve and lift its deadly sanctions on Iran immediately.”
“The sanctions have played a devastating role in the spread of the coronavirus by hindering access to life-saving medicine and medical supplies. As an Iranian-American who recently lost a relative in Iran to the virus, it’s imperative that the administration heed the call of countless global health officials and organizations, dozens of Members of Congress, as well as the UN, to ease sanctions at this critical time. Iran has been one of the hardest hit countries by the coronavirus, and if it doesn’t have the resources to mitigate this pandemic, humanity as a whole will suffer,” said Yasmine Taeb, Senior Policy Counsel at Demand Progress.
Ju-Hyun Park, a member of Nodutdol for Korean Community Development, said: “The devastation COVID-19 has caused in Iran can’t be separated from the long-term effects of US sanctions on Iran’s economy and medical system. We should expect similar hardship in the 38 other countries currently sanctioned by the US. From North Korea to Iran, US sanctions cause widespread suffering and thousands of preventable deaths by disrupting economies, destroying livelihoods, and depriving people of basic goods like food and medical equipment. US insistence on maintaining and escalating sanctions against Iran during this pandemic demonstrates a ruthless disregard for the Iranian people. The US must cooperate with multilateral international peace efforts instead of using economic and conventional warfare to impose its will abroad.”
“For years the Trump administration has imposed catastrophic maximum pressure sanctions on Iran, which has had the effect of depriving millions of innocent people of critical medical supplies,” said Hassan El-Tayyab, Legislative Manager for Middle East Policy at FCNL. “This has compounded the suffering in Iran and limited their ability to slow the spread of COVID-19. As every nation in the world grapples with this global pandemic, it’s critical to remember this virus knows no borders and that all human health is interconnected. The U.S. must lift the economic sanctions hurting Iran’s ability to address the coronavirus and support the global cooperation needed to defeat this pandemic.”
“It is cruel to enforce sanctions that devastate economies and hurt healthcare systems, especially during a global pandemic,” said Erik Sperling, Executive Director of Just Foreign Policy. “It’s morally wrong and counterproductive to pursue regime change by knowingly increasing death and suffering of innocent people. We are so grateful to Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and these Congressmembers for joining the global call for sanctions relief during this crisis.”
“”Before the pandemic, U.S. sanctions silently and slowly killed civilians by restricting access to medical supplies and medicine, causing food insecurity and wreaking economic havoc,” said Paul Kawika Martin the Senior Director for Policy for Peace Action. “Now, the continued economic warfare waged by these sanctions will devastate more people and exacerbate the COVID-19 crisis. For humanitarian reasons and to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease the U.S. needs to lift sanctions that hurt ordinary people.”