Iranian American "Know Your Rights" Campaign Launched By National Organizations

June 2, 2005 12:00 am

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LOS ANGELES — At a breakfast briefing this morning the American Civil Liberties Union and leaders of the Iranian American community launched a “Know Your Rights” Campaign designed to address community-specific concerns.

“The Iranian American community is an integral part of the fabric of America,” said Dalia Hashad, the ACLU’s Arab, Muslim, South Asian Advocate. “When they are targeted on the basis of their ethnicity, it’s a disaster for every aspect of our country, including the government.”

There have been increased patterns of discrimination against Iranian Americans in the past six months, according to the organizations, including allegations of employment discrimination, FBI interrogation and surveillance, problems in getting security clearance and immigration discrimination.

While mindful of security concerns, the organizations unequivocally oppose targeting Iranian Americans on the basis of ethnic origin, saying it does nothing to increase safety. As a result of these concerns, for the first time these organizations have joined together to reach out to the Iranian American community to educate individuals about their rights.

“Dialogue on issues concerning the Iranian community is very important,” said Ranjana Natarajan, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California. “Since community reports of ethnic and language profiling by law enforcement persist, dialogue on these issues can help us build bridges and educate the public.”

The briefing provided an inside look at the stories being documented and the legal rights education that can help save people from misguided discrimination. Resources to help people handle new employer and government profiling were offered as well as the latest efforts to address some of these issues.

One resource offered is the ACLU’s “Know Your Rights” pamphlet, available in Farsi, which details what Iranian Americans should do if questioned by police, FBI, customs agents or immigration officers. It includes sections on what to do if the person contacted is not a U.S. citizen and addresses situations specific to airports.

“NLSCA started the Iranian American Know Your Rights Campaign in an effort to stop being in a defensive posture,” said Banafsheh Akhlaghi, President and CEO of the National Legal Sanctuary for Community Advancement. “We want to bring together organizations to create a national safety net from the continuing backlash on the Iranian American community post 9/11, and to get in front of discrimination that might be coming down the road.”

The ACLU’s “Know Your Rights” pamphlet is available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Somali and Farsi and is available online at www.aclu.org/safeandfree.

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