Iranians in the U.S. are seeing a surge in firings and
FBI interrogations and security clearance denials as anti-terrorist efforts
mount and Washington's criticism of the Iranian government sharpens.
Dokhi Fassihian, executive director of the National Iranian American
Council (NIAC), says she is getting up to five reports a day of Iranians
complaining of harassment.
Fassihian says Iranians have been singled out since 9/11 but that the
current crackdown comes from tightening U.S. security measures as well as
increased tension between Washington and Tehran over Iran's nuclear program
and alleged ties with terrorist groups. "It appears that, after Afghanistan
and Iraq, Iran is a likely target of the next U.S. invasion," says Ali
Golchin, an immigration lawyer in San Diego.
Amrit Singh, a lawyer with the Immigrant Rights Project of the American
Civil Liberties Union in New York City, says the government is definitely
keeping an eye on immigrants from all over the world. But, he adds, there
is added bias against Middle Easterners and Muslims, or those mistaken for
them, based on fears that they are all agents of terrorism. Golchin says
Iranians in the U.S. defy stereotypes, being Muslims, Christians, Jews,
Bahaiis and Zoroastrians.
Government and private employers are not applying rules fairly but are
profiling by race, charges Fassihian. Iranians complain they are getting
harsh treatment even though there are no specific intelligence findings
marking them as security threats.
Neil Gordon, a director with the AIDS Research Alliance in Los Angeles,
reported that a key researcher, an Iranian citizen with an H-1 visa, who
returned this year to Iran for her father's funeral, was stranded in
Switzerland for four and a half months. The State Department required her
to get her visa stamped as a condition for returning, but the U.S.
consulate denied her reentry pending review of her records.
Gordon is upset that a person who has been doing valuable work in the U.S.
for seven years would be subject to these procedures. "The frustration is
that it is not that she is researching anthrax or in nuclear research, it's
that she is Iranian and has a biochemistry PhD," he says.
Fassihian says many Iranians have been denied security clearances for
federal jobs or contracts. In West Virginia, Aliakbar Afshari and Shahla
Azadi, an Iranian couple, were recently fired without explanation from
their jobs at the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health
(NIOSH). They were told there was no appeal..