Frequently Asked Questions
Who are Iranian Americans?
Iranian Americans are one of the most successful immigrant groups in the United States. Iranian Americans have thrived not only in careers such as medicine, science and engineering, law, business, and academia, but also in the arts, music, theater and the humanities. top
How many Iranian-Americans are there in the U.S.?
It is estimated that there are upwards of one million Iranians in the United States. They are dispersed throughout all fifty states but have large concentrations in Southern California, the San Francisco Bay Area and other metropolitan areas such as Washington, D.C., Seattle, New York City, and Chicago. top
When did most Iranians come to the U.S.?
The majority of Iranian Americans came to the U.S. shortly before or after Iran's 1979 revolution. top
What is NIAC?
Founded in early 2002, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) is a non-partisan, non-political, non-sectarian, and non-profit educational organization dedicated to promoting Iranian-American participation in American civic life. NIAC is dedicated to organizing Iranian Americans into a more cohesive and civically active community. top
Who Founded NIAC?
NIAC was founded in early 2002 by Alex Patico, Trita Parsi, Babak Talebi, and Farzin Illich as a 501(c)(3) non-profit education organization with the express mission to promote Iranian-American civic participation. Trita Parsi continues to work for NIAC as President. Alex Patico serves on NIAC's Advisory Board. top
Why was NIAC started?
A new generation of Iranian Americans is growing up in the US,
often with loose ties to their Iranian culture and heritage. The needs
of this generation of Iranian Americans are different from that of
their parents who left Iran.
The community is well-adapted to their adopted home country, and
their integration into the economic side of American life has been
remarkably successful. However, Iranian-Americans' absence from civic
life renders the integration of this new generation into the
fabric of America as a community with strong ties to both their
cultures more difficult. As time passes, the need of this generation
to be able to identify themselves with other Iranian Americans
increases, as does their need to be part of a community that can come
together and act united as a community.
NIAC aims to facilitate this process by promoting Iranian-American
participation at all levels of American civic life. This participation
will create the circumstances that will enable Iranian Americans of all
walks of life to address their common concerns and challenges in
America in a unified way. top
Who runs NIAC?
NIAC is led by a highly capable and dedicated board of directors who have collectively amassed decades of experience working in both the public and private spheres with organizations such as the United Nations, The World Bank, the Institute of International Education, the US Congress and several Iranian-American non-profit organizations. Please click here to find out more about NIAC's Board of Directors. top
What is NIAC's mission? Has it evolved since the organization's inception?
Since its inception, NIAC's mission has been to promote
Iranian-American participation in American civic life. This mission was
amended during a February 2008 Board of Directors meeting to reflect
NIAC's increased efforts on behalf of Iranian Americans. NIAC's new
mission is threefold: To advance the interests of the Iranian-American
community on civic, cultural and political issues; to supply the
resources, knowledge and tools to enable civic participation and
informed decision-making; and to provide the infrastructure for
building bridges between Iranian-American organizations and the peoples
of America and Iran. top
What does NIAC’s tagline – “Community, Democracy. Universal Rights” – mean?
Community: NIAC promotes an active and engaged Iranian-American community in the US and celebrates the community’s deep historical and cultural roots and traditions.
Democracy: NIAC encourages Iranian Americans to contribute to the long tradition of American democracy by being active, informed participants and responsible, engaged citizens. NIAC also supports the Iranian-American community’s aspirations for democracy in Iran.
Universal Rights: NIAC works to ensure that human rights are upheld in Iran and that civil rights are protected in the US. NIAC believes that the principles of universal rights – dignity, due process and freedom from violence – are the cornerstones of a civil society. top
Does NIAC have any political affiliations?
NIAC is non-partisan; our goal is to simply promote Iranian-American participation at all levels of American civic life. NIAC is not aligned with any government, any political party or political personality. Also, by law, as a 501(c)(3) organization, NIAC cannot campaign for any political candidate. top
Does NIAC support or oppose the Obama Administration?
NIAC neither supports nor opposes the Obama Administration. By law, as a 501(c)(3) organization, NIAC cannot campaign for any political candidate. top
On what issues can NIAC take a position?
As a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, NIAC is by law prohibited from supporting or opposing candidates in elections. NIAC can, however, take a position on regulatory matters and advocate general policies such as diplomacy with Iran. In addition, NIAC's legislative efforts are limited to only a certain percentage of our overall budget. For guidance on what issues NIAC will take a position on, we look to our membership and the Iranian-American community to form a strong consensus. For instance, the overwhelming majority of Iranian Americans oppose war with Iran and favor diplomatic engagement; NIAC is therefore advocating this view among members of Congress and other government officials. top
How can NIAC be impartial if individuals in NIAC are politically active elsewhere?
NIAC's mission is to encourage political participation within our community. If we were to discourage our own members and leadership from participating in American political life, we would be acting contrary to our mission statement. However, NIAC’s charter ensures that those engagements do not affect NIAC’s impartiality and objectivity. Although NIAC may be a pioneer in the Iranian-American community by promoting political participation in a non-partisan way while having politically active people in its leadership, this formula is very common across American society and among other ethnic communities. top
Is NIAC is a lobbying group? If so, for whom does it lobby?
No, NIAC is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) education organization, not a 501(c)(4) lobby. NIAC advocates for the interests of the Iranian-American community, as defined by Iranian Americans. NIAC does not lobby on behalf of the Iranian government or any other government. NIAC's agenda is determined by its membership. The positions NIAC has taken on foreign policy, for example, reflect the view of the vast majority of Iranian Americans, according to a 2007 poll conducted by the University of California at Berkeley. top
How does NIAC choose the issues it focuses on?
NIAC advocates the interests of the Iranian-American community, as defined by Iranian Americans themselves. As a true grassroots organization, NIAC's membership regularly votes on the organization's stance on various issues, actively shaping the direction of the organization.
NIAC focuses on issues that are on the national agenda, like major legislation passing through Congress or the potential of a US-Iran war, and issues specific to the Iranian-American community, like the mislabeling of the "Persian Gulf" on Google Earth. top
Are Iranian Americans the only members of NIAC?
NIAC is an American organization open to everyone, regardless of their
ethnic, religious and political background. NIAC members, board members
and supporters come from all walks of American life. They are united by
the idea that Iranian Americans have the ability to play a key role in
American civil society with the same levels of success and
professionalism that they have played in American economic, academic,
technological and scientific life. top
Does NIAC support dialogue between the US and Iran?
Per the vote of NIAC's membership, the organization currently supports the idea of resolving the problems between the US and Iran through dialogue in order to avoid war. We strongly encourage Iranian Americans to participate in the debate on this issue in the US. This is an area that affects all our lives and Iranian Americans of all political convictions should have their views considered by decision-makers. top
Is NIAC affiliated with the Islamic Republic of Iran?
Absolutely not. NIAC has no affiliation with the Islamic Republic of Iran nor the United States government. NIAC is an independent, US-based Iranian-American non-profit organization. top
Does NIAC receive money from the Islamic Republic of Iran?
Absolutely not. NIAC does not receive funds from the Iranian government nor the United States government. In accordance with US law, NIAC's finances are publicly available (see below) and we welcome anyone who wishes to further study our financial records to do so. top
Where does NIAC's funding come from?
NIAC is funded through donations from private individuals, private enterprises and foundation grants. From our founding in 2002 through 2009, approximately 70% of NIAC's funds have come from the Iranian-American community, a point of pride for NIAC. NIAC is a true grassroots organization, with members in over 44 states. Over the past five years, the average donation of our membership has ranged from $112 - $160 per person per year.
NIAC has received the remaining 30% of its funds from prominent foundations like the Ploughshares Fund, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Nathan E. Cummings Foundation, and the Parsa Community Foundation. In the past, NIAC has also received funding from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). NIAC does not receive funds from the Iranian government nor the United States government.
As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, NIAC's financial records are part of the public record. Also, we are taking a lead in the Iranian-American community to spread a culture of transparency, and have made our tax returns available to download.
What positions has NIAC taken since the June 12th presidential elections in Iran?
NIAC was the first Iranian-American organization to condemn the Iranian government's use of violence against peaceful demonstrators and its human rights abuses. In response to the extraordinary events that transpired in June, NIAC was also the first Iranian-American organization to call for new elections to be held in Iran as the only plausible way to end the violence.
While taking the pulse of the Iranian-American community, NIAC has been the only Iranian-American organization consulted regularly by the White House. Through our consultations with the White House, President Obama has taken a strong stance against the violence in Iran while at the same time emphasizing that the Iranian people will determine their own future for themselves.
NIAC has called on the Iranian government to 1) end political detentions; 2) immediately release opposition figures, human rights defenders, and all other persons arrested for contesting the election results; 3) ensure the humane treatment of detainees; 4) provide detainees immediate access to their families, lawyers, and any necessary medical treatment; 5) abandon the path of violence and oppression; 6) disarm the Basij paramilitary; and 7) heed the proposals of leading opposition figures to end the country's political crisis peacefully.
Moreover, NIAC petitioned the EU, Russia and China to use their influence with Iran to pressure the Iranian government to stop the violence and to take these steps.
NIAC staff have played a major role in the media, discussing the election crisis, human rights violations, and how the United States should respond to the challenges posed by these events. NIAC staff have appeared on every major television news network, including CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, NBC News, CBS News, the BBC, and the PBS NewsHour. Our coverage and analysis has also been picked up by the New York Times, Washington Post, Time, Foreign Policy Magazine, the Atlantic, the Huffington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and many others. top
Why is NIAC being defamed by supporters of military confrontation with Iran?
NIAC opposes war with Iran, and has been very successful pushing for diplomacy on Capitol Hill. NIAC's efforts lend Iranian Americans a voice in Washington, D.C.; but like all successful political organizations, it is impossible to be effective without garnering critics.
NIAC's critics often equate opposition to war with support for the Iranian government. Nothing could be further from the truth. NIAC opposes a US-Iran war because it would be detrimental to US national interest and likely prolong the reign of the current Iranian government.
NIAC's critics include neo-conservative activists like Kenneth Timmerman and Michael Rubin, who prefer military confrontation over diplomacy. Critics in the Iranian-American community include groups like the terrorist-listed People's Mujahedin of Iran (also known as the MEK or MKO).
NIAC welcomes a debate on how to best deal with the challenge that Iran poses to the United States, but we deplore the practice of resorting to ad hominem attacks and character defamation, rather than addressing the issues in good faith. top
Because NIAC opposes a US-Iran war, does it support the Iranian government?
No, NIAC does not support the Iranian government. Opposition to a US-Iran war does not equate support for the Iranian government. NIAC opposes war because it is not in the national interest of the United States. NIAC believes that war would impose tremendous suffering on the American (and the Iranian) people. NIAC also believes that war with Iran will most likely fuel radical elements inside Iran and strengthen Iran's current government.
Numerous public opinion polls in the United States have shown tremendous opposition to war and support for diplomacy, including a 2007 poll conducted by the University of California at Berkeley. top
Why does NIAC oppose US government funding for organizations inside Iran?
Prominent Iranian pro-democracy and human rights activists -- such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, investigative journalist Akbar Ganji, Woodrow Wilson scholar Haleh Esfandiari and Human Rights Watch -- have all come out forcefully against any politicized US government funding for organizations inside Iran, because of the additional security risk these funds pose to on-the-ground activists. (See the BBC for more information).
NIAC believes that it is critical for the United States to take the concerns and prospective of pro-democracy human rights activists inside Iran seriously. NIAC has seen, up close, the negative effects of politicized US government funding. For several years, NIAC worked with Iranian NGOs doing non-political capacity building through National Endowment for Democracy (NED) funds, and witnessed how the atmosphere in which these organizations operated inside Iran became drastically worse due to politicized US funds.
NIAC believes that any effort by the US government to help the Iranian people must be supported by the Iranian people, and must not endanger their lives. top
What is NIAC's position about the human rights situation in Iran?
Per the vote of its membership, NIAC has been
a vocal critic of the Iranian government's human rights abuses for years. While
NIAC's extensive coverage
and repeated condemnations of the Iranian government's brutal crackdown against peaceful demonstrators in the summer of 2009 garnered significant media attention, our work on
human rights started much earlier. When NIAC made the decision to seek peaceful
solutions to the US-Iran crisis, NIAC also decided to educate lawmakers and the
general public on Iran's human rights abuses. For the latest news and updates on NIAC's work on human rights, please see the human rights page. top
What are some of NIAC’s accomplishments?
Please see our accomplishments page. top
How can I support NIAC?
You can help NIAC and its mission both through financial support and by donating your time and efforts. You can become a NIAC supporter either by making a financial contribution or by volunteering for NIAC. top
What do I do if I have more questions?
Your questions may be answered on our Myths vs. Facts page. We also welcome questions and comments. You can find our contact information here. top