NIAC Concerned by edX Move to Bar Iranians from Coursework
UPDATE: edX responded to NIAC’s letter, citing a delay in obtaining a U.S. government license as the basis for a recent suspension of services that inadvertently affected Iranian Americans. See more here.
In response to messages received from its members, NIAC sent a letter today to edX, an online educational platform founded by Harvard University and MIT, expressing concern regarding its decision to terminate or reject the participation of students with Iranian background from its online coursework in an apparent attempt to comply with U.S. sanctions.
The decision has not just impacted individuals from Iran, but also Iranian Americans, in what appears to be an over-enforcement of U.S. sanctions with discriminatory impact on those with Iranian heritage. Given reports it appears that at least one Iranian American has been impacted by this policy. As a result, we are seeking information on edX’s criteria for determining where specific students are based, Iran or otherwise. We strongly urge that edX alters its policies immediately to ensure that they are not over-enforcing sanctions or discriminating based on nationality and NIAC stands ready to assist edX in making that happen.
edX is one more example of the many companies that have or may go beyond standard sanctions compliance, especially as the first wave of pre-Iran deal sanctions are reimplemented. Many individuals of Iranian descent have been impacted by banks closing their accounts with little to no advance notice out of misguided fears that these individuals would seek to access their banking accounts while in Iran in violation of sanctions. Similarly, edX’s broad approach to compliance creates an environment conducive to discriminatory protocols and criteria, significantly impacting the every-day life Iranian Americans living in the U.S. Unintended, negative impacts of sanctions will remain a pervasive threat to Iranians and the Iranian-American community until the day that they are lifted.
Please see the letter below: