For Immediate Release
Contact: Jamal Abdi
Washington, DC – National Iranian American Council issued the following statement regarding Apple’s apparent decision to block access to its App Store inside Iran:
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“We are very concerned that uncertainty around the Iran deal, and the political instability in the United States regarding the future of our Iran policy, is pressuring companies like Apple to back away from permissible business inside Iran to the detriment of ordinary Iranians. We urge that the Administration take steps to ensure that its policies are not undermining legitimate interests like human rights and freedom of speech for Iranians.
“Two years ago, there were signs that Apple may be expanding its operations into Iran – which was a positive signal for ordinary Iranians as well as for Iranian Americans who want to see a more open Iran. That move never came to fruition, likely as a result of hardliner pressure inside Iran and the limitations imposed by U.S. sanctions. Unfortunately, now we are seeing the erosion of even the most basic sanctions exemptions for communications technology that were put in place under the Obama Administration to ensure the U.S. wasn’t helping Iran’s government silence Iranians.
“This latest news about Apple shuttering services for Iranians is part of a disturbing trend that must be reversed. We have already been in communication with the U.S. government about decisions late last year by Apple and Google to block Iranian developers from hosting applications on their platforms. We have emphasized the need to broaden exemptions to reverse such decisions and will redouble our efforts to address these new challenges. We have also been in communication with appropriate agencies regarding other troubling signs, including the fact that the U.S. Postal Service has started rejecting packages to Iran despite a longstanding exemption to allow Americans to send mail to Iran.
“The comprehensive U.S. embargo on Iran makes it all but impossible to target sanctions against bad actors and the current environment has only increased the difficulty. But the limited efforts to exempt key goods and services from sanctions are now being undermined by fears that the U.S. is planning to snap back extraterritorial sanctions that were lifted under the nuclear deal and what appears to be a new crackdown against Iran. The embargo has exemptions for humanitarian goods like food and medicine, as well Internet communications tools aimed at enabling Iranians to communicate freely. Because they are so narrowly tailored, and because the embargo and sanctions on Iran are so broad, these exemptions can only work to the extent that there is confidence the U.S. government will honor them companies have confidence they will not be punished for engaging in permissible activities inside of Iran.
“Access to communication technology is important for both humanitarian as well as U.S. strategic interests, which is why exemptions for Internet communication tools were put in place under the previous Administration. Allowing these exemptions to fall by the wayside helps no one except those who seek to keep the Iranian people silent.”