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Iranian students complain of discrimination overseas

Iranian students complain of discrimination overseas
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/14/iranian-students-discrimination-overseas?CMP=twt_gu

Sanctions blamed as bank accounts frozen, student loans denied and university applications rejected
As US and EU sanctions aimed at Iran's nuclear programme continue to escalate, an increasing number of Iranians studying abroad are finding themselves in the firing line. Bank accounts have been frozen, student loans denied and university applications rejected.

Until recently, Yasamin studied electrical engineering in Leeds. She was accepted into a PhD programme, but with the sharp drop in the value of the rial her family could no longer afford to support her, she said. Yasamin's hopes of pursuing her doctoral studies at the University of Illinois, Chicago, were also dashed when she was unable to demonstrate that she had $26,000 (£16,700) in the bank. Her savings amount to half of that in today's currency. So instead of completing her education, she is biding her time in Tehran, hoping for a job offer in Europe. Like others interviewed for this article, she asked to be identified only by her first name.

Reza, 22, who is studying medicine in Hungary, faces similar problems. "When I came here, the toman was 1,000 to a dollar, now it's 4,000," he said. (One toman is 10 rials.) Because of sanctions it is virtually impossible to carry out international bank transfers from Iran, leaving many students in Europe to go back home to fetch the money they need for university. At least once a year Reza carries $20,000 (£12,650) in cash from Iran to Europe, of which $15,000 goes to pay his tuition. This far exceeds the $5,000 legal limit one is allowed to take out of Iran. "I go there and hide the money in my underwear," Reza said. "Really!"

Not everyone can get their hands on that kind of money in Tehran, and many students have to stay there longer, risking missing the university's payment deadline. "For whatever reason, we are the victims," Reza said. Critics of the sanctions argue that they not only create bureaucratic annoyances but are discriminatory and potentially violate basic rights.

The uncertain financial situation of Iranian students has put universities on guard. In Denmark, the University of Aarhus recently accepted an Iranian PhD engineering student but reversed its decision "due to the international economic sanctions against your country and the severe problems with transferring money from Iran to foreign countries".

The university said it was cautious about accepting students on Iranian government scholarships in case they ended up without the means to support themselves. "This is actually out of concern for the students," a spokesman said. The university readmitted the student on appeal.

Some European governments have instructed universities to reject applications from Iranian masters and PhD students in certain academic fields. In January, the Czech Technical University in Prague rejected Nazli, an Iranian student of geomatic engineering, because she was Iranian. The university said it was acting on government orders.

In Tehran, Nazli said she was laid off from her job a few months ago because her employer declared that construction work was unsuitable for women. She was later told that insurance for female factory workers had been cancelled, and that the government had instructed the Department of Renovation and Construction in Tehran not to hire women. Last year more than 30 public universities in Iran banned women from 77 university majors, including engineering, computer science, business and English literature.

"In this atmosphere I was forced, like many others, to continue my education abroad," she said in an email. "But if European universities only accept Iranian students for undergraduate work and don't let them enter graduate schools … the chance for Iranian women to study and work in engineering fields will be zero."

European sanctions do not impose restrictions on education, but the Czech education ministry argued in an email that it was taking appropriate steps to avoid violating EU sanctions. The ministry has recommended universities "not to admit students from Iran to study the fields which may be used in the development and manufacturing of weapons of mass destruction and weapon systems and delivery systems of mass destruction or, more generally to support nuclear programme (military and industrial)".

According to the ministry, a course Nazli applied for – sustainable constructions under natural hazards and catastrophic events – fell under this definition. "For Iranian students of the other 'peace' study fields, such as agriculture, economics, humanities, the door of Czech higher education institution is open," the ministry said.

In the US, reports emerged last month that a bank had notified 22 Iranian students at the University of Minnesota that their accounts would be closed. The bank, TCF, said it had sent the letter to a larger group of customers, not just Iranians. The bank is still reviewing the accounts, and said some of the customers who had responded to questions about certain transactions had kept their accounts open.

Amir, a PhD student, said he would not respond to the bank's questionnaire. The questions were very personal and detailed, he said, and inquired about the nature of his PayPal account, the source of his money and how he planned to spend his money each month. "Instead of giving us answers they just asked us more questions. It was offensive," Amir said, adding that the university's office of international students had not heard of students of other nationalities receiving the same notification.

The sanctions against Iran do not prevent banks from doing business with Iranians in the US, but given the complex web of regulations, some choose to err on the side of caution, experts say. Jamal Abdi, policy director with the National Iranian American Council in Washington, said sanctions are aimed at the government in Tehran but policymakers were aware of the consequences for ordinary Iranians. "We mined the entire Iranian economy and then we expect civilians to be able to walk through these minefields – and that's not possible," he said.

In November Parastoo, a student of fine arts in Boston, received a notice from Discover Student Loans, rejecting her loan application. "Unfortunately, we cannot approve your application for the following reason(s): the country of residence you provided on your application is on the OFAC sanctioned country list," the letter said.

In an email, Discover said it "offers and services student loans in compliance with law, including restrictions imposed by United States sanctions programmes", but refused to answer why Parastoo's account was closed or to comment on whether it was a general policy to reject applications from Iranians.

Parastoo previously had a loan to cover her living expenses with Citibank, which sold the loan to Discover. After conversations with the dean, the university stepped in with a $2,000 scholarship, but Parastoo said the help was not enough. "I have to work more, but international students can only work on campus. It's hard for me, I have no connections here," she said.

In Europe, Iranian students are also coming forward with claims of banks discriminating against them on the basis of nationality. According to Mohsen, working on his PhD in mechanical engineering at the University of Leeds, NatWest closed his account in February 2012 without any prior notice and told him he could not transfer his money to any other RBS-owned bank. Mohsen he made no transactions with Iran. RBS failed to respond to repeated requests for comment.

Mohsen said he had opened the account with NatWest when he arrived in the UK in 2008 because Barclays, HSBC and Lloyds had all rejected him, citing his nationality as reason. "It's a kind of discrimination," Mohsen said. "So many students from all over the world come here, and they can all have bank accounts." He has now opened an account with Santander, but feels his problems are far from over. "It happened once so it can happen again in the future," he said.

Samira Afzali, an immigration lawyer in Minneapolis, is collecting complaints from Iranians affected by sanctions. The main problems they faced, she said, were electronic payments, but ordinary cash deposits at banks also caused problems. An Iranian-American who checks an online account from an Iranian IP address while visiting family in Iran would have their account blocked automatically, she said.

Navigating sanctions regulations, banks and businesses will not risk the liability of dealing with Iranians. Aside from the bureaucratic nightmare, Afzali said, it was in effect creating a second-class status for Iranians and those of Iranian descent.

Sanaz Raji contributed reporting from Leeds


Added: Feb-16-2013 Occurred On: Feb-16-2013
By: AntiPropagaanda
In:
World News
Tags: Iran, Sanction, Students, Discrimination, America,
Location: Iran (load item map)
Views: 2298 | Comments: 76 | Votes: 1 | Favorites: 0 | Shared: 0 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 2
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  • Boo-hoo fucking hoo.

    Posted Feb-17-2013 By 

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  • muzzies being discriminated against in a country they all despise, hate, and want to destroy. well then, no fucks will be given by me. please, just get the fuck out of my country and take your bacon hating qurans with you.

    Posted Feb-17-2013 By 

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    • @skrillas No citizen of Iran hates or even dislikes the US. Don't mix up the people and the government.

      Posted Feb-17-2013 By 

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    • @meewog

      Too bad your government would murder you if you asked for some changes.

      Posted Feb-17-2013 By 

      (1) | Report

    • @HappyFrogs Yes, thats the point exactly. People looking at Iran from outside think we love our government and we want them to be in power. I'm pretty sure nothing much can be done at this stage to overthrow the government. (unfortunately)

      Posted Feb-17-2013 By 

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    • @meewog

      Oh don't worry we're in pretty much the same boat. I'd imagine about 5% of the American population want to be at war with anyone. Truth is we just go to work and try to live peaceful lives. We get basically no say in what our government decides to do. It's a incredibly corrupt system.

      Posted Feb-17-2013 By 

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    • @HappyFrogs what % of the population wants america to pull out of every base in the world and just focus on fixing its shit? im in that group of people.

      Posted Feb-17-2013 By 

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  • All these complaining fuckers had a jolley good time while chanting 'death to America' during a recent event..now stay in Iran and get hanged for being gay.

    Posted Feb-17-2013 By 

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    • @hatemosquito They've been chanting "death to America" for 34 years since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. It doesn't mean sh*t. Just a means for the current regime to gather support and blame others for their own bad choices.

      Posted Feb-18-2013 By 

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  • "Last year more than 30 public universities in Iran banned women from 77 university majors, including engineering, computer science, business and English literature."

    Again, the underlying issue is their country and their religion. Their people are either apathetic to their extreme culture or dangerous to other cultures. Either way they're better off stuck over there until they're ready to join the 21st century...

    Posted Feb-16-2013 By 

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    • @pontiaku I'm from Iran and many of us are pro western unfortunatley the religious leaders of Iran live in the dark ages of Islam, and the way the nation is now is not the fault of Iranian people as they try to change things but its not like other western countries where you can just voice your opinion for that reason it's not as simple as you think to change things.... People get killed for opening their mouth.... I doubt you be so brave to speak your mind and make a change knowing you or you f More..

      Posted Feb-17-2013 By 

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    • @persianboy1323 Dude, stfup. Stop kiising the ars of these americvnts. americans are a bunch of savage fvcks who don't care about the value of human life. They are monkeys, degenerates, whores, f@ggots etc... Fvck them and fvck their people. When we do get a nationalist government, we should inavde their nationa dn rape and impregnate all their women ;)

      Posted Feb-17-2013 By 

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  • Go back to Iran. Pretty fucking simple.

    Posted Feb-17-2013 By 

    (3) | Report

  • Cry me a fucking river, too bad.

    Posted Feb-17-2013 By 

    (3) | Report

  • That's what happens when your government keeps openly saying they want to kill half the world.

    Posted Feb-17-2013 By 

    (3) | Report

  • Ohhhh poooooor iranians. I know! you can FUCK OFF!

    Posted Feb-16-2013 By 

    (2) | Report

  • TOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
    Fucking bad.

    Posted Feb-16-2013 By 

    (2) | Report

  • Cry some more. We don't fucking care.

    Posted Feb-17-2013 By 

    (2) | Report

  • SILENCE!

    Posted Feb-16-2013 By 

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  • Blame your government Iran, you're becoming the North Korea of the middle east. Of course businesses, universities, and banks don't want to take the chance with you since war seems to be on the horizon.

    Posted Feb-17-2013 By 

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  • If I ever meet a Muslim who doesn't complain, I'll eat a rat.

    Posted Feb-16-2013 By 

    (1) | Report

  • Why would we want to educate Iranians to go home and look after more Iranians, while the really smart Western educated Iranians build more nuclear bombs.

    That's not very intelligent.

    Rescind their Visa's and send them the fuck home.

    Posted Feb-16-2013 By 

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    • @CrushedGravel
      The US started the Iranian Nuclear programme. Their first reactors and plants were designed by, provided by, and installed by US government engineers. The only reason Iran will not get turned over in the next 5 years is because of the threat of nuclear weapons, and we wonder why Iran keeps publicly announcing its advancements? Think an invasion force would have sat en masse in the Kuwaiti desert in 2003 if we thought Saddam had WMDs?

      Posted Feb-16-2013 By 

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  • Whaaaaa!

    Posted Feb-17-2013 By 

    (1) | Report

  • Timothy mcveigh responsible for terrorist attack in America ? Does anyone remember him?
    He was an American killing Americans? We don't hate all Americans because of him...
    Why do you hate us because of our rulers? We can't change this government overnight
    Iran will change and it will be a us ally again like it was before 1979. .... This backwards Islamic regime
    Will eventually fall and hopefully America doesn't make the same mistake again of putting such regime in power....
    Yes you guessed More..

    Posted Feb-17-2013 By 

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  • You see Iranians, Americans DON'T seperate the regime in Iran from the people, so Iranians need to stop seperating the americans from their government, cause they're all the same. Americans support their facist government, and they deserve the backlash that they face from the world.

    Posted Feb-17-2013 By 

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    • Comment of user 'Bud Spencer' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
  • Fuck all you Iranians. You allow yourselves to be ruled by savages.

    Posted Feb-17-2013 By 

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  • See, this is why discrimination is not always bad. Iranians are the new Nazis, discrimination against them is appropriate. If they want to go to school they can go to school in Russia, Cuba, North Korea, or Venezuela.

    Posted Feb-16-2013 By 

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    • @lastdance
      Of course every Iranian citizen is a religious extremist, even Western-educated English speaking ones. Discrimination isn't always bad because it relies on probability in order to determine risk, and so allows me to determine that you are probably a misinformed and an easily manipulated individual who is at risk of passing on the same affliction to his children.

      Posted Feb-16-2013 By 

      (1) | Report

  • fine, go back on your amazing islamic country and let decadent european occident.

    Posted Feb-16-2013 By 

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  • Comment of user 'Amusing' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
  • Why do they have heads on their bodies?

    Posted Feb-16-2013 By 

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  • America does NOT need more muslim women.

    Posted Feb-16-2013 By 

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  • When their libirian lookin' hairy bitches can make out in public
    Talk to me
    Otherwise STFU!

    Posted Feb-16-2013 By 

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  • I'm sure they could easily get an "Axis of Evil" scholarship by going to some other university in North Korea, Venezuela, etc. I hear they have excellent student programs for engineering next generation fighter jets made out of fucking paper mache lol

    Posted Feb-16-2013 By 

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