Iranian U of M students baffled as TCF Bank suddenly closes their bank accounts

Sanction intended to make life difficult for the Ahmadinejad regime are also impacting U of M students.
Sanction intended to make life difficult for the Ahmadinejad regime are also impacting U of M students.

The U.S. government's sanctions against Iran are hitting home, as at least a dozen Iranian U of M students were recently informed that TCF Bank is closing their bank accounts.

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TCF Bank hasn't provided an explanation other than saying the move comes amid concerns that certain transactions "might have violated federal sanctions," the Star Tribune reports.

U of M administrators seem as baffled as the affected students by TCF's action, as university spokeswoman Patty Mattern told the Strib: "Given our relationship with TCF Bank, we would have expected that TCF representatives would have communicated with us ... prior to students receiving the letter" informing them of the account closures. TCF and the U have an exclusive agreement allowing students to open up bank accounts using their school ID cards.

Professor William Beeman, chair of the U's anthropology department, told the Strib that many of the affected students have spotless banking records.

The "irregularly" cited by TCF Bank in explaining the accounts closures "might be that they're Iranian," Beeman added.

TCF Bank denies Iranian are being targeted, citing the fact that many of the 67 Iranian students at the U bank at TCF and didn't have their accounts closed.

Jamal Abdi, policy director of the National Iranian American Council, told the Strib that thanks to the sanctions, more and more private companies are "judging that it's not in their interest to do any business that is any way related to Iran."

A Guardian report from last summer entitled "Sanctions on Iran: 'ordinary people are the target'" details how the people hit hardest by the sanctions aren't necessarily members of the Ahmadinejad regime:

Measures imposed on Iran's central bank, cutting it off from the world, have caused grave problems for ordinary Iranians as well as opposition activists because it is the only official channel for them to transfer money abroad...

Activists say that, unlike ordinary people, the regime can find a way out of banking difficulties with help from its proxies.

Sanctions are also affecting Iranians outside the country. One Iranian who is a resident of the US said her bank account was closed recently because of a "new policy forbidding the banks to work with countries that expose them to money laundering".

Speaking on condition of anonymity, she said: "I am living in this country [US], working and paying tax like others. I believe this is a kind of discrimination."

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