Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Q&A Regardin SUTA Gatherings

Dr. Hojabri has sent out a mass email to all SUTA members answering some general questions regarding 2006 reunion. The deportation of dozens of individuals who were granted visas to attend this event in Santa Clara was widely covered by BBC, Iranian Media, different radio stations and Bloggers. Iranian government also expressed its dissatisfaction to Switzerland embassy in Tehran. Dr. Hojabri has kindly permitted me to share his email. here it is:

Q. Why the Reunion 2006 was held in US?
A. SUTA’s Reunions are for all members and not for members in a specific country. In the last two Reunions many members living in US were not able to attend the Reunions because they had visa problems too! Graduate students and young professional members with F, J and H visas were not able to travel outside US, because for reentering they had to apply for new visa. For this reason it was natural for SUTA, as a California based organization, to have another Reunion in California.

Q. Didn't SUTA know that traveling to US is very costly for members in Iran?
A. Yes, but the same is true for members living in US to travel, e.g., to Europe. Apparently cost was not a decisive issue, as during the first two weeks of registration more than 300 registered to participate in the Reunion 2006 from Iran.

Q. Did SUTA promise to get visa for participants?
A. No, from the starts we told the members that USA is different from Canada and Germany. While we had the cooperation of the Canadian and German embassies for Reunion 2002 and 2004, we had no contact or promise of cooperation from the State Department or the US consulates, although we had written to them and informed them of our gathering in Santa Clara. We said that we would only provide the participants with an invitation letter to apply for visa. We were naturally very pleased when we saw that the consulates accepted more than 150 visa applications from our participants.

Q. Were participants from Iran detained because they were coming to SUTA’s gathering?
A. The concern of US security agencies about Reunion 2006 was not because of SUTA, but because of participation of large number of members from Iran. But according to the Bylaws, membership in SUTA is open to all associates of Sharif (Aryamehr) University of Technology and we SUTA cannot function in any other way.

Q. Didn't SUTA expect that US will not allow participation of members from Iran?
A. No, all indications up to the last few days before the Reunion were positive. We don't think that anybody could predict Lebanon war, UN Security Council’s Ultimatum to Iran, and the discovery of terrorists attack in UK, all just a few days before the Reunion 2006!

Q. Why SUTA that was aware of the visa problems, has invited members from Iran to participate in Reunion 2006?
A. We cannot imagine organizing a Reunion without participation of our members in Iran. What would our members say if we had excluded members in Iran from Reunion 2006?

Q. Can the US Government be sued for physical pains, psychological stress and financial loss of the deported participants?
A. Lawyers advising us on this issue believe that the deported participants have to initiate any action, but the chances of success are not great. The security laws passed recently give the Federal Government free hand to bar any visitors, and at anytime, from entering US for national security reasons. Such a law suite will be very expensive and takes a long time. The Iranian Government has also recommended that the deported participants file suite in Iranian courts.

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