PayPal's Iran sanctions cripple Melbourne soiree

PayPal's Iran sanctions cripple Melbourne soiree... 05/11/2016 Culture

Keywords:#Iran, #Iranian, #Melbourne, #Moroccan, #Muslim, #OFAC, #Office_of_Foreign_Assets_Control, #Persian, #Persian_Soiree,

By Benjamin Millar
A small Brunswick cafe has been forced to refund tickets for a Persian food night, because PayPal fears the event is in breach of decades-old economic sanctions against Iran.
The Persian Soiree at the Moroccan Deli-cacy on Lygon Street will mark the launch of an issue of Garland magazine, which is dedicated to the return of Iranian culture and arts as sanctions on the country slowly lift. But those very sanctions have attracted the heavy hand of online payments system PayPal, which has not only blocked sales but also refunded those who have bought tickets to the November 20 event.
The Moroccan Deli-cacy, home to the 'Speed date a Muslim' initiative, has been caught up in PayPal blocking ticket sales to its latest event. Photo: Penny Stephens

* * * Garland editor Kevin Murray said PayPal began refunding payments on Thursday.
When Dr Murray questioned the wisdom of blocking the sales, PayPal provided a generic response informing him the transactions had been reversed due to an "Office of Foreign Assets Control compliance review".

Sanaz Fotouhi.

* * * "PayPal is required to comply with the Office of Foreign Assets Control's (OFAC) regulations," it stated via email. "As required by law, PayPal does not allow any transactions to, or from, OFAC sanctioned countries."
Despite explaining that is a strictly local event and no proceeds from ticket sales will ever make their way to Iran, the block remains enforced.
"I do think it's an inappropriate application of this political sanction because no money is going to Iran," Dr Murray said.
"This is a sign of exactly the sort of damage these sanctions can have."
The Persian Soiree event is described as "an afternoon of Iranian/Persian culture", including a talk by writer Sanaz Fotouhi, a "faal" ritual of Persian poetry and food from the Moroccan Deli-cacy.
Moroccan Deli-cacy earlier this year implemented a 'Speed Date a Muslim' event in which people could ask questions of Muslim women about their religion and culture.
Dr Murray said it was particularly frustrating the event was being blocked, given it was designed to herald the lifting of the sanctions that are nevertheless still being applied almost a year later.
He is seeking for the decision to be reversed, but holds little hope of the block being lifted in time for the event.
While frustrated at the situation he has taken heart that it "highlights the very issues" arising from such sanctions.
"This action by PayPal shows how important it is that we demonstrate a welcome to Iran which acknowledges their desire to be an active part of world culture again."
PayPal has been contacted for comment.
---A celebration of Iranian culture planned for a small Brunswick cafe has fallen victim to a high-stakes game of international diplomatic intrigue. ---

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