The harsh sanctions that the United States and its European allies have imposed on Iran know no boundaries.
The West has banned the export of life-saving medicines and medical equipment to Iran, which has threatened the lives of thousands of Iranians suffering from cancer, thalassemia, hemophilia, HIV/AIDS, psychiatric disorders, and other diseases. The companies that do business with Iran will be immediately penalized by the U.S. government, and so far no exemptions have been made to ensure that ordinary Iranian citizens will at least get access to medicine and medical equipment.
The recent wave of sanctions has also targeted Iranian media outlets, as several satellite providers across Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America have taken Iranian television networks off the air, denying millions of viewers around the world the chance to find an alternative, Iranian perspective on international affairs.
The sanctions are so extensive that they even deprive Iranian citizens of access to the latest technology. Almost all the laptops and computer devices available in Iran’s tech market are of low quality.
Contrary to their claims that they care about the wellbeing and happiness of the Iranian people and that their problem is only with the Iranian government, Western governments have banned the most basic internet services for Iranian users under false pretexts, which proves that they are exercising double standards.
The internet explorer Google Chrome is unavailable for downloading to Iranian users, and so are the instant messaging software Google Chrome, the picture sharing platform Picasa, and the geographical surveying application Google Earth. Although Iranian computer geeks know tricks to circumvent these limitations, for the majority of Iranian computer users these services are not easy to access.
Google lifted the restrictions in early 2011, when opponents of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took to the streets and staged demonstrations. Google announced that it would ease the restrictions to allow the protesters to communicate more smoothly and organize mass demonstrations. “There are many activist layers on Google Earth. Anyone can create a layer to show exactly what is going on in Iran,” said Scott Rubin, Google’s head of public policy.
So it’s clear that even when the U.S. internet giant made some concessions, it did not intend to serve the interests of the Iranian people in general, but only sought to weaken the government and empower the opposition.
But the limitations imposed on Iranian internet users by the United States are not new or unprecedented. On August 19, 1997, President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 13059, which blocked access to U.S.-produced software, hardware, and other technology products for Iranian internet users and computer companies.
According to the decree, “the exportation, reexportation, sale, or supply, directly or indirectly, from the United States, or by a United States person, wherever located, of any goods, technology, or services to Iran or the Government of Iran, including the exportation, reexportation, sale, or supply of any goods, technology, or services to a person in a third country” is prohibited.
According to the U.S. Department of Treasury, only a handful of commonplace computer applications, such as document readers like Acrobat Reader, plug-ins like Flashplayer and Shockwave, and “free mobile apps related to personal communications” are legally downloadable in Iran.
In April 2003, it was reported that in a racially discriminatory and politically motivated decision, the popular career and job-finding website Monster.com removed the profiles and résumés of users from the countries on the U.S. State Department’s blacklist, namely Iran, Syria, Sudan, Myanmar, Cuba, Libya, and North Korea.
In a March 21, 2012 report, CNet political correspondent Declan McCullagh wrote that Google has also restricted Iranian users’ access to Android Market, known as Google Play.
Collin Anderson, an independent researcher in North Dakota, has listed a number of U.S.-based technology products that are unavailable to Iranian users. These products include, but are not limited to, Apple’s iOS app store, McAfee’s antivirus software, Oracle’s Java and MySQL, Adobe Acrobat Reader, DropBox, Real Player, Google AdWords, and Google Android Market.
The unfair measures taken by the U.S. government -- dictated to U.S. internet, IT, and other technology-related service providers -- are now even taking the form of racial discrimination. It was reported in June 2012 that an Apple Store in Alpharetta, Georgia refused to sell an iPhone and iPad to Persian-speaking customers, with the salespeople resorting to the excuse that they believed they planned to send at least one of the devices to their friends in Iran.
When Sara Sabet, a 19-year-old student at the University of Georgia, went to an Apple Store in a local mall with her friend to buy a couple of iDevices, the salesperson heard her speaking in a foreign language. The employee asked her what language she was speaking, where she was from, and where the iPad and iPhone she wanted to buy were heading to. She responded by saying that she was from Iran and wanted to send the devices to her friend in Iran. Then the Apple employee responded by saying, “I just can’t sell this to you. Our countries have bad relations.” Sabet said that she left the store and shed tears the whole way back home.
In a statement issued on the incident, Council on American-Islamic Relations National Executive Director Nihad Awad called the Apple Store’s treatment of the Iranian student discriminatory, and said, “Apple must revise its policies to ensure that customers do not face discriminatory treatment based on their religion, ethnicity or national origin.” He added, “If the actions of these Apple employees reflected company policy, that policy must be changed and all employees retrained.”
This is how Iranians are being treated by a government that has always bent over backwards to portray itself as the world’s standard-bearer of human rights. Perhaps Iranians are paying the price for the independence of their nation and their refusal to bow to the hegemony of the United States. These sanctions, which directly affect the daily lives of ordinary citizens, show how low the U.S. government will stoop to deprive a people of their basic rights.
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