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Open letter

No crime and punishment
American Chemical Society should repeal unjust expulsions and reinstate Iranian members

May 1, 2007

Dear Members of the American Chemical Society:

On behalf of the Iranian academic community and the Iranian American Professional Associations we are writing you to ask your assistance in reversing the unilateral decision of the Board of ACS to terminate the membership of chemists living in select countries, mainly in Iran, and mostly university professors.

We are Iranian Americans adhering to moral and ethical values. We would like to offer our strong support to our colleagues in Iran who need our help, not punishment motivated by irrelevant and unjustified intentions.

We believe that this decision is ill-conceived and misguided, without justification, and is gravely undermining the integrity of ACS as a prestigious scientific organization that we have collectively worked very hard to achieve. In this regard please note the following:

  • ACS decided to not renewthe membership of its Iranian members starting January 2007 without disclosing it to the public. ACS Members heard of this decision only when it was reported in the March 30, 2007, issue of the Science Magazine (1).
  • On April 9, ACS decided to go public, and at the same time file for an Exemption License with the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) (2). In its News Release of April 16, 2007, ACS actually makes reinstatement of these members conditional to the approval of its application by OFAC (3).
  • We believe that termination of Iranian membership was against the ACS Bylaws (4) that provides dismissal of members only for:

Sec. 3- Article 4:

“A member may be dropped from membership for nonpayment of dues or for conduct which in anywise tends to injure the SOCIETY or to affect adversely its reputation or which is contrary to or destructive of its objects. No member shall be dropped except after opportunity to be heard as provided in the Bylaws. (1/1/63)”

None of the reasons stated above apply to this mass termination case, and due process was most certainly violated by this ACS decision.

  • ACS asserts that the dismissal was according to the advice of lawyers, both in-house and external, and intended to follow the rules governing the Sanction Law and Iran Trade Restrictions. ACS further claims that this decision was at the advice of OFAC (5).
  • Berman Amendment to the Sanction Law excluded Information Exchange from this law, and OFAC actually recognized this in its November 3, 2003 ruling (6), in which it makes a statement in favor of professional membership:

“The prohibition in ITR § 560.204 on exports to Iran or the Government of Iran does not apply to the exportation to any country of information and informational materials. ITR, § 560.210(c)...

The extension of membership to and acceptance of annual dues from Iran in connection with receipt by Iran of the U.S. Entity’s association publications and information would not be prohibited by the ITR.”

  • If ACS has a ruling by OFAC that explicitly prohibits the membership of Iranian nationals in US professional organizations, then it has the duty to disclose such document to its members.

Paradoxically, no other professional organization has terminated its Iranian members.

  • ACS Executive Director and CEO, Ms. Madeleine Jacobs, even in this week’s C&EN (7), emphasizes that she was made aware by the lawyers that not dropping Iranian members would result in heavy fines of $500,000, up to 20 years jail sentence for key officers, and the danger that ACS would lose its tax-exempt status. This advice that was also given to IEEE in 2001 appears to us more like ‘scare tactic’ and is unfounded.

OFAC does not prohibit Information Exchange and Membership of nationals from Embargoed Countries in U. S. Professional Organizations, and to our knowledge it has never prosecuted or penalized any US professional organization, or its Board members, for violating US Laws by having Iranian members.

  • After having Iranian members for many years since passing of the Sanction Law, if ACS was still concerned about legality of having Iranian members, it could have applied for Exemption and exclude its Iranian members if its application was rejected by OFAC, and not use the ‘Shoot first, ask later!’ strategy. This sort of action is not expected from a scientific Organization that believes in its own Constitution and the ‘Universality of Science.’

Many US professional organizations have not even applied for Exemption license with OFAC to have Iranian members, because they believe that Sanction Law does not require them to do so.

Since the disclosure of the ACS decision many members of ACS and concerned members of other professional organizations have written to ACS and have expressed their dismay about the exclusion of Iranian members.

Please contact the President and Board members of ACS via secretary@acs.organd ask them to repeal this unjust decision and reinstate the Iranian members. Comments

With best regards,

Fredun Hojabri
Professor of Chemistry & former Academic Vice-President of Sharif (Aryamehr) University of Technology,

David Rahni
Professor of Chemistry, Pace University
Adjunct Professor of Dermatology, New York Medical College
Former Chair of the ACS New York,

Prof. Fazlollah Reza
President and Founder of Iranian Academic Association of North America

Fariba Aria, Ph. D. in Chemistry
President, Sharif University of Technology Association (SUTA)

Mohammad Behforouz, Professor of Chemistry
President, Shiraz University Association (SUA)

Ali Banijamali, Ph. D. in Chemistry
Chair, Iranian Chemists' Association of the American Chemical Society (ICA-ACS),

Ali Akbari, Professor of Economics, California Lutheran University
President, Association of Professors and Scholars of Iranian Heritage (ASPIH)

Hamid Javadi, Ph. D., Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Iranian-American Physicists (IrAP) Network Group
(c/o Hamid Javadi, IrAP Network Group President)


  • Chemical & Engineering News, April 23, page 9

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Fredun Hojabri

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