ACTION ALERT: Dear President Obama: Honor Iran's Medical Needs
February 6, 2013
Monthly Review & Campaign for Peace and Democracy & Friends Committee on Legislation & Reuters
“Iranian Mothers for Peace," in an open letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, have alerted the responsible world bodies and human rights groups to the critical shortage of vital medication due to the US/EU-led sanctions on Iran and their deadly impact on the lives and health of the Iranian people. "The everyday reality we observe on the ground in Iran has convinced us that the draconian sanctions are victimizing the very fabric of the society we intend to strengthen."
ACTION ALERT: Dear President Obama: Honor Iran's Medical Needs
"Iranian Mothers for Peace"
Alert the World
On Sanctions and
Shortage of Medicines
Mehrnaz Shahabi / Monthly Review & Global Research
(February 2, 2013) -- “Iranian Mothers for Peace," in an open letter of January 2013 to Mr. Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, and Dr. Margaret Chan, the Director General of the World Heath Organization, have alerted the responsible world bodies and human rights organizations to the critical shortage of vital medication due to the US/EU-led sanctions on Iran and their deadly impact on the lives and health of the Iranian population.
“Iranian Mothers for Peace" is a non-profit forum, well known and respected in Iran's civil society. In 2006 a number of social activists came together to form this forum. “Mothers for Peace" is not a political party and organizationally it has a flexible structure.
“Mothers for Peace" takes pride that its 700 participants come from very diverse political backgrounds and different social classes. It affirmatively celebrates diversity, which it considers a reflection of the tolerance the group espouses.
With the ideal of peace in mind, “Mothers for Peace" is open to all participants who take a stand against any form of violence, poverty, and oppression.
“In our campaigns to protect the environment, we encourage measures that reduce the impact of human violence against it. We take solid steps to eliminate and mitigate gender inequality. Over the years, our projects have focused on welfare of addicts and prisoners, and publicizing their rights.
"The scope of our vision and work is to achieve social security and permanent peace. Hence, this non-profit institution has a wider definition of the concept of 'peace'; it refutes the narrow perspective of 'peace' as mere absence of external military violence and confrontation. And it is precisely in this context that we view the Western-imposed crippling sanctions on the people of Iran as a form of structural violence -- a silent, yet a predatory war.
"The everyday reality we observe on the ground in Iran has convinced us that the draconian sanctions are victimizing the very fabric of the society we intend to strengthen.
"Presently, a number of the core group members of 'Mothers for Peace' are suffering from cancer. Sadly, they are having a difficult time obtaining the medicines needed for their treatment, and like many of their compatriots they suffer from unnecessary additional anxiety that might further deteriorates their precarious health condition."
Below is the text of the open letter in English.
January, 26, 20013
Dr. Margaret Chan
World Health Organization
Avenue Appia 20
Dear Dr. Margaret Chan
As you know, the illegal and inhumane actions led by the US and the EU, targeting the country and the population of Iran, with the stated intention to put pressure on the government of Iran, have intensified in the past two years and increasingly harsher sanctions are imposed almost on a monthly basis.
The regulations governing these inhumane and arbitrary sanctions are executed with such strict inflexibility that Iran is now excluded from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) and the sanctions on banking transactions are preventing Iran from even purchasing its needed medical supplies and instruments.
On the other hand, to avoid suspicion for dealing with Iran, the European banks are fearful not to engage in any kind of financial transactions with Iran and, therefore, in practice, refuse any transfer of payment for medical and health-related items and raw materials needed for the production of domestic pharmaceutical drugs, even payment for well-recognized drugs for the treatment of Special Diseases, which are not of dual use.
Are you aware that while American and European soldiers' lives in Afghanistan are being saved by Iranian anti-snake venom potions and medication, Iranian hemophilic children, cancer patients, and those suffering diabetes, under the pretext of the execution of 'smart sanctions', are being deprived of their lifeline medication and face death or irreversible disability?
We ask you:
What could possibly be the intended target of the wealthy and powerful US and European statesmen's 'targeted' and 'smart' sanctions but to destroy the physical and psychological health of the population through the increase of disease and disability?
We respectfully request from you and from all the relevant international bodies, specially, the World Health Organization and human rights organizations, to act according to their humanitarian and legal responsibilities, and demand the American and European countries leading sanctions on Iran to urgently create the necessary mechanism for opening financial transactions and letters of credit to facilitate the purchase of medicine for Iranian patients.
The right to health and access to medical treatment and medication is one of the fundamental human rights anywhere in the world. Please do not allow the killing of our sick children, beloved families, and fellow Iranians from the lack of medicine, caught in instrumental policies of coercion and power.
Farid Marjai is a writer and activist. Mehrnaz Shahabi is an anti-war activist and independent researcher.
ACTION ALERT: Honor Iran's Medical Needs
Joanne Landy and Thomas Harrison / Campaign for Peace and Democracy
(February 5, 2013) -- CPD is pleased to join a broad coalition organized by the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) calling on President Obama "to take action to ensure that Iranian civilians are not blocked from accessing food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods under existing US sanctions."
For several years, CPD has opposed US military, economic and diplomatic policy on Iran, while also opposing repression within Iran. In 2010 we circulated a sign-on statement "End the War Threats and Sanctions Program Against Iran: Support the Struggle for Democracy Inside Iran," which was hand-delivered with its hundreds of signatures by a delegation of peace, labor and human rights activists to the US and Iranian missions to the United Nations.
Since 2010 the United States-led sanctions program has expanded and escalated, causing mounting hardship for ordinary Iranians. We hope that FCNL's initiative will help Americans to realize the dire consequences of US sanctions policy, and that it will stimulate popular pressure to reverse this cruel and inhumane approach.
Campaign for Peace and Democracy,
2790 Broadway, #12, New York, New York 10025
INTRODUCTORY NOTE FROM THE
FRIENDS COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL LEGISLATION
(February 4, 2013) -- FCNL led a broad coalition of 25 national organizations calling on President Barack Obama to take action to ensure that Iranian civilians are not blocked from accessing food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods under existing US sanctions.
According to recent reports, a growing number of Iranians are facing difficulties accessing food and medicine, in part due to sanctions imposed by the United States. The Iranian government's mismanagement and lack of economic transparency has also worsened the situations for Iranian patients, but there are still simple actions that the US government can take to ensure that Iranians are not blocked from accessing food and medicine due to the US sanctions regime.
LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA
SUBJECT: Open Channel for Food and Medicine to Iran
Dear President Obama,
(February 4, 2013) -- We write to express our deep concern for Iranian civilians who have not been able to access life-saving medicines and humanitarian goods inside of Iran, which has been caused in part by US sanctions against Iran.
We urge your Administration to take all necessary steps to ensure that licensed humanitarian goods are not prevented from reaching the people of Iran as a result of US sanctions imposed on the Iranian banking sector.
Thomas Pickering, former US ambassador to the United Nations and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, expertly summarized the crux of this problem posed by US sanctions. Referring to US sanctions on the banking sector that block purchases of humanitarian goods, he explained on October 1, 2012: "we issue licenses for sales of food and medicine to Iran, but it is not legal for them to pay for it."
Various recent reports have illustrated the grave impact that the shortages of life-saving medicines and humanitarian goods inside Iran have had on ordinary civilians:
In an October 2012 report on the human rights situation in Iran, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon [See story below] spelled out how sanctions block Iranians from accessing food and medicine, noting that "Even companies that have obtained the requisite license to import food and medicine are facing difficulties in finding third-country banks to process the transactions.
Owing to payment problems, several medical companies have stopped exporting medicines to the Islamic Republic of Iran, leading to a reported shortage of drugs used in the treatment of various illnesses, including cancer, heart and respiratory conditions, thalassemia and multiple sclerosis."
On November 23, 2012, the BBC reported: "Hospitals, clinics and pharmacies in Iran are running out of medicine as the government cuts health funding because of international sanctions, putting the lives of thousands of people at risk."
Recent reports by The Financial Times, Al Monitor and the International Civil Society Action Network, indicate that a growing number of Iranians do not have access to life-saving medicines. As this legislative record makes clear, Congress has established some protections to help humanitarian goods reach the people living under sanctioned regimes.
Under the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (TSRA) the export of licensed medicines, medical devices, agricultural commodities, and food are exempt from sanctions.
Congress has explicitly reaffirmed this policy in four acts authorizing sanctions on Iran which you have signed into law, including the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010; the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, and the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.
While congressional sanctions distinguish between sanctionable activities and exempt humanitarian transactions, executive order sanction 13382 affects all of Iran's largest banks and does not specify an exception for humanitarian transactions.
In addition, the humanitarian licenses issued by the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) expressly prohibit not only the direct involvement of these banks, but also their indirect involvement.
We appreciate your Administration issuing new regulations on October 22, 2012 that allow US companies to sell certain medicines and medical supplies to Iran without first seeking a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control. However, as the New York Times recently reported, "the exporters [of medicines] still face troubles getting paid" and a result, "virtually no American or European bank wants to be involved in financial transactions with Iran."
To ensure that Iranian civilians are not barred from accessing food and medicine, humanitarian transactions must be exempted from banking sanctions.
The current impasse with Iran over its nuclear program should not prohibit the export of life-saving medicines, which millions of Iranian civilians depend on. We urge your Administration to take all appropriate steps to ensure authorized humanitarian transactions regarding Iran are not obstructed by US sanctions.
As a first step, we hope that your Administration would provide a clear statement that it is not the policy of the United States to in any manner prohibit permissible humanitarian transactions.
American Friends Service Committee
Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy
Campaign for Peace and Democracy
Center for Interfaith Engagement -- Eastern Mennonite University
Church of the Brethren
Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Environmentalists Against War
Fellowship of Reconciliation
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Havaar: Iranian Initiative Against War, Sanctions and State Repression
International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN)
Just Foreign Policy
Mennonite Central Committee US Washington Office
National Iranian American Council
Orthodox Peace Fellowship
Peace Action West
Peace X Peace
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Presbyterian Church (USA.)
Progressive Democrats of America
The Peace Alliance
The Student Peace Alliance
United Methodist Church -- General Board of Church & Society
Women's Action for New Directions
UN Chief Says Sanctions on Iran Affecting its People
Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau / Reuters
UNITED NATIONS (October 5, 2012) -- International sanctions on Iran are having "significant" effects on the Iranian people and also appear to be harming humanitarian operations in the country, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said in a report to the UN General Assembly released on Friday.
The Iranian currency has fallen during the past year and over the last ten days alone has lost a third of its value, sparking street protests. US official and other Western officials blame the drop on a combination of economic mismanagement and sanctions.
Iran is under UN, US and European Union sanctions for refusing to halt nuclear enrichment, which Western powers and their allies fear is part of a plan to amass the capability to produce nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the charge, saying its atomic work is for medicine and generating electricity.
"The sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran have had significant effects on the general population, including an escalation in inflation, a rise in commodities and energy costs, an increase in the rate of unemployment and a shortage of necessary items, including medicine," Ban said in the report.
Iran has been hit with four rounds of UN Security Council sanctions between 2006 and 2010 for refusing to halt its nuclear enrichment program. Western nations originally said the sanctions would hurt the government and not the people of Iran, but now acknowledge the wider impact.
Britain, France and Germany have called for more EU sanctions, but there are unlikely be further UN sanctions because of resistance from Russia and China. Moscow has repeatedly criticized unilateral US and EU sanctions against Tehran.
Russia and China have reluctantly supported all four rounds of UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program but worked hard to weaken the measures in negotiations on the Security Council resolutions before their adoption.
"The sanctions also appear to be affecting humanitarian operations in the country," Ban wrote in the report, dated August 22, to the 193-member General Assembly on the "Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran."
"Even companies that have obtained the requisite license to import food and medicine are facing difficulties in finding third-country banks to process the transactions," he said.
NO 'SERIOUS' PROPOSALS FROM IRAN
Ban said due to the payment problems some medical companies have stopped exporting medicine to Iran, leading to a reported shortage of drugs used to treat various illnesses, including cancer, heart and respiratory conditions and multiple sclerosis.
Ban said a number or Iranian aid groups and activists had expressed concern about inflation, rising commodity prices and the sanctions compounding each other to have "far-reaching effects on the general population."
For nearly 10 years, various major powers have negotiated unsuccessfully with Iran to persuade it to halt its nuclear program in exchange for political and economic incentives. Since 2006, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China have led the so-called "P5-plus-one" talks with Tehran.
The European Union has started discussing the possibility of a broad trade embargo against Iran, moving beyond the web of energy, business and financial restrictions imposed so far. But some states fear aggressive moves could backfire and rally the people behind Iran's leaders.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held out the possibility on Wednesday that sanctions on Iran could be eased quickly if Tehran worked with major powers to address questions about its nuclear program.
Western diplomats said Iran continually offers proposals about how it could end the nuclear stand-off with the West, but they are not bringing them to the six-power group -- the five permanent Security Council members and Germany -- and do not appear to be sincere about resolving the crisis.
"The Iranians float all sorts of proposals outside the framework (of the six-power group) but nothing serious," a senior Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
Another Western diplomat said that Iranian proposals always involve the removal of sanctions before they would suspend sensitive nuclear activities, which he said was unacceptable.
Last week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew his "red line" for Iran's nuclear program, saying Tehran may be on the brink of an atom bomb in less than a year and suggesting that Israel might have to make a decision on whether to use military force against Iranian nuclear sites by spring 2013.
(Editing by Vicki Allen)
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