WASHINGTON – The Treasury Department said Friday it is allowing U.S. technology firms to expand their business in Iran, one of the most sanctioned countries in the world, to increase Internet access for the Iranian people.
The Iranian government has cut off internet access for most of its 80 million citizens as it cracks down on demonstrators protesting the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in custody by Iran’s moral police.
The morale was detained by the police Last week, Amini said she did not properly cover her hair with the Islamic headscarf, known as the hijab, which is mandatory for Iranian women. Amini fainted at the police station and died three days later.
At least nine protesters have been killed in clashes with Iranian security forces since violence erupted over the weekend. US sanctions were imposed Thursday about the morality of the police and the heads of law enforcement agencies.
The Treasury Department said the updated general license issued on Friday allows technology firms to offer more social networking and collaboration platforms, video conferencing and cloud services. The updated license also removes the requirement that the communication be “personal”, which the Treasury Department says burdens companies with the need to verify the purpose of the communication.
“As brave Iranians take to the streets to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, the United States is redoubling its support for the free flow of information for the Iranian people,” said Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo.
“With these changes, we are helping the Iranian people to be better equipped to resist the government’s efforts to monitor and censor them.”
In 2014, the Treasury Department’s Sanctions Division issued a license to export to Iran software and services that would allow the free exchange of information over the Internet, with the goal of facilitating the free flow of information for Iranian citizens.
Despite the permit, firms are reluctant to do business in Iran for fear of violating existing sanctions and other punitive laws.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Monday tweeted that his satellite internet firm Starlink will seek a work permit in Iran. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the decision on Starlink’s next steps must be made by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
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