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UANI Issues Statement Regarding Treasury’s Lifting of Certain Sanctions on Communications Equipment in Iran

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) CEO, Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, issued the following statement regarding U.S. Treasury’s decision to lift a portion of U.S. trade sanctions today on the sale of certain consumer communications equipment and software in Iran:

We support all efforts to expand freedom of communication and expression in Iran. However, feel-good gestures absent concurrent action to limit the Iranian regime’s capabilities to disrupt, monitor, and track communications networks will be ineffective. The Obama Administration’s action today will not curb the regime’s intrusive surveillance and censorship system, or its brutal crackdown on communication networks and the Iranians that use them.

Since the 2009 election crackdown, the Iranian regime has imposed an electronic curtain in the country, by disrupting and blocking access to internet and social media platforms as well as tracking citizens’ activities. The regime has been aided in these repressive surveillance and censorship activities by multinational telecommunications providers such as MTN, that should face U.S. sanctions.

As the White House appropriately wrote in a press release last year on human rights abuses in Iran and Syria:

The same Global Positioning System (GPS), satellite communications, mobile phone, and Internet technology employed by activists across the Middle East and North Africa and around the world is being used against them in Syria and Iran… The Syrian and Iranian governments are rapidly increasing their capabilities to disrupt, monitor, and track communications networks that are essential to the ability of Syrians and Iranians to communicate with each other and the outside world.

In order to actually expand freedom of communication in Iran, the Obama Administration should immediately sanction telecommunications firms such as MTN, Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks, Creativity Software, ZTE, and Huawei that have provided the regime with the services and technology necessary to monitor and track dissidents for detention, arrest, or torture.

Such action would truly assist the Iranian people in overcoming the media and communications blackout imposed by regime authorities. Subject to the Iranian regime’s oppressive system of surveillance and censorship, the consumer communications technology so valuable to open societies just becomes another tool of oppression.

Last week, UANI unveiled its Iranian Regime Election Repression Toolkit, highlighting the Iranian regime’s use of international corporate technology and equipment to stifle political dissent and deny Iranian citizens their basic rights of free expression and protest in the run-up to the Iran’s June 14 presidential elections. Interested parties can visit UANI.com/TOOLKIT to see which corporations’ technology and products are being misused by the regime for political oppression, and contact those companies’ executives.

The following international telecommunications firms have reportedly been complicit in Human Rights Abuses in Iran:

  • Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) – Provided technology used to monitor and block communications during the 2009 presidential elections.
  • Ericsson - Provided a mobile-positioning center to Iran in 2009 capable of tracking the location of cellphone users.
  • MTN - 49% shareholder of state-owned MTN Irancell, the second largest mobile phone network operator in Iran which has monitored and tracked the activities and communications of dissidents.
  • Huawei – Technology used by the regime to conduct surveillance on its citizens, track down dissidents, censor news and block service.
  • ZTE - Sold an advanced surveillance system that enables regime to monitor the voice, text messaging and internet communications of its citizens.
  • Creativity Software - Sold MTN Irancell a location-tracking system in 2011 that can track a target's movement every 15 seconds and plot the locations on a map.

Click here to visit UANI’s Iranian Regime Election Repression Toolkit.
Click here to learn more about UANI’s Tech & Telecom Campaign.

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