Press Statement: Obama and Rouhani—A Call To Action

Press Statement
Obama and Rouhani—A Call To Action From US-Based Iranians and Their Allies

September 24, 2013, New York—Within hours of speeches by the presidents of the United States and Iran before the United Nations General Assembly, the New York City-based organization Havaar: Iranian Initiative Against War, Sanctions and State Repression brought its message against war and sanctions and for the rights of the Iranian people to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in Manhattan.

Hassan Rouhani’s first visit to the UN as president of Iran comes on the heels of his recent electoral victory—a victory which would not have been possible without the votes of millions of people. Many Iranians view Rouhani’s election and the recent release of roughly a dozen political prisoners as hopeful signs, but have yet to see the broader changes Iranian society urgently needs.

When Iranian voters chose Rouhani, a moderate candidate, to be president, they likely forced a toning down of rhetoric from the Obama administration. While that is encouraging, military action against Iran is still “on the table,” and the devastating US-led sanctions against Iranians—which are really a form of war—unfortunately continue.

Havaar said, “We stand here today to demand an end to the cruel and unjust sanctions regime imposed on the Iranian people by the United States, and an end to threats of war from both the United States and Israel. At the same time, we echo the demands of millions of Iranians—many of whom voted for Mr. Rouhani—for the continued release of political prisoners, social justice for women, and an end to the repression of trade unions and freedom of the press in Iran.”

Havaar was joined by allies from other anti-war and social justice organizations as members carried large signs bearing slogans in English and Farsi such as “Lift The Sanctions,” “Bombing My Family Is Not An Option,” and “Free All Political Prisoners.”

Havaar: Iranian Initiative Against War, Sanctions and State Repression is a grassroots group of Iranians, Iranian-Americans and allies who have joined together to categorically oppose any military action and sanctions against Iran. Havaar stands in solidarity with the Iranian people’s struggle against war and sanctions and against state repression, asserting that all of these forms of violence hurt the lives and aspirations of ordinary Iranians. Follow us on Facebook and visit our website.

The 2013 Iranian Presidential Elections

Solidarity with the democratic movement in Iran!

Lift U.S. sanctions against Iran! End collective punishment of the Iranian people!

Along with millions of people both inside and outside of Iran, we are deeply inspired by the determination of the Iranian people to use the June 14th elections to press the realization of their own democratic aspirations. Hassan Rouhani won a decisive victory over five other candidates in the first round of voting, securing 50.7 percent of the more than 36 million votes cast in a massive turnout, with 72.7 percent of eligible voters casting their ballots. Rouhani describes himself as a “moderate,” and he has not challenged the fundamental principles of the Islamic Republic. Nor does his election change the fact the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard continue to control the most important levers of power. Nonetheless in the course of the election campaign Rouhani took several stands that encouraged people who are dissatisfied with the Iranian government to vote for him: for example, he criticized the morality police, called for lifting restrictions on the Internet, lamented the fact of widespread unemployment, and declared that, “in consensus with higher officials,” political prisoners would be freed.

Despite relentless political repression and massive economic instability, medical shortages, inflation, unemployment, etc., exacerbated by U.S. sanctions, the popular democratic movement in Iran has shown itself to be remarkably resilient: tens of thousands of Iranians marched in cities across the country on June 15th to celebrate the election results, and their chants and slogans such as the following showed the enduring momentum for change and a desire to keep alive the memory of those who lost their lives during 2009’s post election uprisings:

  • Green movement! Happy Birthday!
  • This is the remembrance of 2009 protests
  • Hassan (Rouhani)! bring the key, and open the Evin prison
  • June 14th gets our stolen votes back
  • Green movement/reform has not died, it has brought Rouhani
  • Rouhani do not forget, Mousavi must be released

In response to the Iranian elections, the White House and Secretary of State John Kerry praised the “courage” of the Iranian people, attempting to position the United States on their side against their government. But the administration’s tribute is blatantly hypocritical: U.S.-led sanctions are directly contributing to the suffering of these “courageous” people, particularly most recently. In the run up to the elections, the U.S. escalated sanctions against the petro-chemical industry, the car industry and the Iranian currency itself, greatly exacerbating the difficulties Iranians already encounter in meeting the needs of everyday life. Instead of offering empty phrases of admiration for the Iranian people, the U.S. should lift sanctions now and stop the collective punishment and intimidation of ordinary Iranians.

As the Iranian people continue to resist from below the many sources of oppression they face, both internally and from U.S./Israeli aggression, we in Havaar call on the Obama administration to lift all sanctions on Iran immediately and stop the devastation of millions of Iranians’ lives. For example, there is an urgent and proliferating health care crisis caused directly by sanctions on “dual use” goods and on hard currency needed to buy medicine and medical supplies. As Iranian hospitals run out of essential medications and the parts to fix medical equipment, more patients will die prematurely of easily preventable deaths. Havaar has launched a campaign to enforce the exemption for humanitarian goods, including medicine, and we urge the Obama administration to issue an unequivocal statement to banks that they will not be penalized for facilitating the purchase of items that fall under the exemption clause and to provide a clear exemption from banking sanctions for humanitarian transactions. This can be a first step towards alleviating the harsh effects of the U.S. sanctions program.

We congratulate the millions of Iranians who seized this electoral moment to show yet again the political force they are. And we call on President Rouhani and the new Iranian government to live up to the hopes of the people who voted for change. We call for the freeing of Green movement leaders Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi and all political prisoners, and for an end, at last, to state repression in Iran. Movements for women’s rights, labor rights, and all human rights need the freedom to organize without fear of governmental punishment.

We furthermore call on our government here in the United States to stop adding to the burdens Iranians face and lift the sanctions and end the war threats now!



Sanctions; Silent War Performance Project Draws Attention to Harmful Effects of Sanctions in Iran


December 20, 2012, New York—Yesterday Iranian artist Sanaz Sohrabi—with the co-sponsorship and help of Havaar and Sanctioned Life—brought a unique performance project to the streets of Manhattan.

Iranian civilians are increasingly feeling the effects of a strict U.S.-led sanctions regime that has severely curtailed economic activity in Iran (the economic mismanagement of the Iranian government is exacerbating the situation). One of the most devastating effects is a lack of access to crucial medicines. Patients suffering from cancer, hemophilia, multiple sclerosis, and other ailments which require drug regimens in order to be treated are finding those medicines increasingly unavailable, either due to shortages or to large price increases that make them unaffordable. The result has been significant suffering, including the recent death of Manouchehr Esmaili, a 15-year-old boy with hemophilia who passed away last month when his parents were unable to find the medicine he required.


To communicate the severity of this situation, Sohrabi engaged in a performative art piece which involved filling thousands of transparent pill capsules with messages from actual Iranians describing how sanctions have had an impact on their health or the health of loved ones. These capsules were then spread out on the streets near the United Nations and also handed out to passersby who were encouraged to read the messages inside.

Said one Iranian whose words were placed inside the capsules: “I am a patient with a liver transplant. To sustain a liver transplant I need to use particular drugs. Unfortunately like all others I am having problems acquiring them.” There are far too many similar situations all over Iran.


“My sister is a pharmacist in Iran and she used to tell me stories about the effect of sanctions on medicine availability and patients,” said Sohrabi. “When I moved to America, I felt that these stories were unknown and invisible to people here, so I decided to make them visible and be a messenger for those in Iran whose voices are not being heard.”

 Sohrabi and members of Havaar and Sanctioned Life are available to discuss the project and the sanctions situation in Iran.

UPDATE: Iranian Activists Release Photos and Video of Demonstration and Unannounced Action

 Havaar & The Illuminator Join Forces to Protest Ahmadinejad, Netanyahu and Obama

Photos of the protests can now be found on Havaar’s facebook page.

Video of the Illuminator projections has just now been released here.

September 26, 2012, New York —Today, as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the United Nations General Assembly, Havaar: Iranian Initiative Against War, Sanctions and State Repression released photographs and a video from a demonstration it held yesterday to protest Ahmadinejad’s crimes against the Iranian people, as well as President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s support for severe economic sanctions and escalating threats of attacking Iran militarily.

Havaar said, “What Ahmadinejad, Netanyahu and Obama have in common is a complete disregard for the lives and dignity of the Iranian people. Their callousness in pursuit of their own political interests threatens the well being of approximately 75 million Iranians, and moreover creates a bleaker future for us all.”

The demonstration occurred near the Warwick Hotel in midtown Manhattan where Ahmadinejad and his coterie are staying.

Ali Abdi, a student activist who until recently was involved in both the student and women’s movement in Iran said, “It’s impossible to describe the feeling of holding larger than life photographs of Iranian political prisoners in the streets of New York, close to where Iranian officials responsible for their ongoing suffering are staying. I know this will give some heart to their loved ones, and to many other Iranians who want to see the release of all political prisoners.”

After the demonstration, Havaar was joined by The Illuminator crew and their cargo van to take their message against war, sanctions, and state repression onto the streets and public facades of New York. Projections happened at Union Square, around Washington Square Park, and on the facade of the Flatiron Building.

Havaar: Iranian Initiative Against War, Sanctions and State Repression” is a grassroots group of Iranians, Iranian-Americans and allies who have joined together to categorically oppose any military action and sanctions against Iran. Havaar stands in solidarity with the Iranian people’s struggle against war and sanctions and against state repression, asserting that all of these forms of violence hurt the lives and aspirations of ordinary Iranians. Visit and




Iranians and Allies Protest Ahmadinejad, Netanyahu, and Obama

During United Nations General Assembly Convening, Havaar Says That Each Government Acts Against the Interests of the Iranian People


September 25, 2012, New York —Today, on the occasion of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s final visit to the United Nations General Assembly, the New York-based group Havaar: Iranian Initiative Against War, Sanctions and State Repression was joined by allies to voice opposition to the Iranian government’s repression of the Iranian people and to call for an end to crippling sanctions and threats of war by the U.S. and Israeli governments.
Protesting outside Ahmadinejad’s Manhattan hotel, members of Havaar and their allies held giant posters bearing images of 24 Iranian political prisoners from all walks of life, including the young human rights activist Shiva Nazar Ahahi, and labor leader Reza Shahabi, sentenced to four and six years respectively for their political activities. Havaar members said, “We protest Ahmadinejad and hold up photos of imprisoned Iranians in lieu of all those who can’t. It’s a basic act of solidarity with the disappeared and the broken, and with those who continue to demand accountability and justice at great risk to themselves.”

Simultaneously Havaar protested against the American and Israeli government’s policies of sanctions and threats of war.

“Our primary concern is the welfare of the Iranian people, and of people all over the world struggling against repression and violence, be it foreign or domestic,” said Havaar. “We condemn the violence of the Iranian government against fellow Iranians, just as we condemn the increasingly aggressive U.S. and Israeli policies of sanctions and threats of war. The sanctions imposed on the Iranian people are not an alternative to war, but wage war on the Iranian people by other means. They operate as collective punishment, and must end. We hope that people the world over will stand in solidarity with the Iranian people against all the violent forces that seek to obstruct their dreams for a free and just society. ”

“Havaar: Iranian Initiative Against War, Sanctions and State Repression” is a grassroots group of Iranians, Iranian-Americans and allies who have joined together to categorically oppose any military action and sanctions against Iran. Havaar stands in solidarity with the Iranian people’s struggle against war and sanctions and against state repression, asserting that all of these forms of violence hurt the lives and aspirations of ordinary Iranians. Visit and

Iranians & Allies Demonstrate Against Tightening Sanctions

U.S.-Backed European Union Oil Boycott Against Iran Goes Into Effect;
Iranians & Allies Demonstrate in front of U.N. Missions & Call Sanctions “Collective Punishment”

July 1, 2012, New York – Today, as the European Union went ahead and launched an oil embargo against the Iranian people, many Iranians and Iranian-Americans in New York were joined by human rights and social justice advocates, peace groups, and allies from around the world to protest the embargo and escalating U.S. and European Union sanctions.

They began their demonstration in front of the German Mission to the United Nations, and also made stops at the British, French and U.S. missions, demanding that these world powers cease their sanctions policies and accompanying threats of military strikes. At each stop, they provided testimony about the impact of sanctions on the Iranian people.

Hamid Dabashi, Professor of Iranian studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, said, “Sanctions are hurting ordinary people, the very same people who in their millions poured into the streets as recently as three years ago. These newest rounds of sanctions come on the heels of the Iranian government’s brutal crackdown on the democratic opposition of its own people, and do further damage to that opposition by closing the space in which it can breathe.”

Havaar: Iranian Initiative Against War, Sanctions and State Repression, the grassroots group that organized the demonstration, issued the following statement:

Today, the European Union, backed by the United States, has launched what stands to be a crippling oil embargo against the Iranian people. This follows escalating U.S. sanctions that as of June 28 further punish any company that does business with Iran’s Central Bank and increasingly decimates the country’s capacity to make financial transactions. At the same time, third country buyers of Iranian oil continue to face growing U.S. pressure to cut their purchases as well.

These increasingly aggressive measures together exacerbate the suffering of the Iranian people who are already facing the grave impact of sanctions and their government’s inequitable economic policies as they confront rising prices in food, medicines and other basic needs. These sanctions constitute collective punishment. They are not an “alternative to war,” but are war by other means. They are an assault on the lives and aspirations of the Iranian people, including their aspirations and struggles against state repression to create a just and meaningfully democratic society.

Today brings further shame to the European Union and to the United States. We demand an end to their cruel and brutal sanctions policies, and an end to their threats of military aggression. We stand in solidarity with people everywhere who bear both the brunt of foreign intervention and the tyranny of domestic repression. We stand against all militarists, warmongers, and torturers, whether they be in the White House, Paris, or Tehran, whether they destroy bodies in federal Supermax prisons in the United States, in Guantánamo, in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, or at the receiving end of the Obama administration’s expanding drone strikes and targeted killing program.

The demonstration was co-sponsored by Brooklyn For Peace, Coalition to Defend the Egyptian Revolution, Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Campaign for Peace and Democracy (CPD), Occupy Wall Street -Global Justice (OWS-GJ), Pakistan Solidarity Network (PSN), Raha – Iranian Feminist Collective, South Asia Solidarity Initiative (SASI), War Resisters League (WRL), and Where is My Vote–NY (WIMV-NY).

“Havaar: Iranian Initiative Against War, Sanctions and State Repression” is a grassroots group of Iranians, Iranian-Americans and allies who have joined together to categorically oppose any military action and sanctions against Iran. Havaar stands in solidarity with the Iranian people’s struggle against war and sanctions and against state repression, asserting that all of these forms of violence hurt the lives and aspirations of ordinary Iranians. Visit and