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The world must support people in Iran: sanctions relief helps connect the nation

In solidarity with people protesting across Iran, Access Now supports international action to keep the country connected — to information, platforms for expression, and the outside world. U.S.-based tech companies must act now to make their services available to the Iranian people.

“As we watch history unfold in Iran, it is imperative that people fighting for their future have an open, fair, and accessible internet, and can use the online tools and platforms they need to exercise their human rights,” said Marwa Fatafta, MENA Policy and Advocacy Manager at Access Now. “This U.S. sanctions carve-out is a step in the right direction. We encourage leaders from across the globe to stand up and support women, and all those protesting for freedom, in Iran today.”

Last week, the U.S. Department of the Treasury issued Iran General License (GL) D-2 to increase support for internet freedom in Iran by bringing U.S. sanctions guidance in line with the changes in modern technology since the issuance of the 2014 license, Iran GL D-1. Ultimately, this means U.S.-based companies can offer tools and services like video conferencing, e-gaming, e-learning platforms, automated translation, web maps, and user authentication services, and cloud services to people in Iran with confidence they are not breaking U.S. law.

“Now, the burden falls on U.S. companies — the tech sector, as well as financial institutions and other transaction processors — to comply, and not overcomply,” said Peter Micek at Access Now. “Corporate overcompliance with Iran sanctions deprives vulnerable and marginalized people of the goods and services they need to stay safe and active in defense of human rights.”

While these sanctions changes are an important move, there is a lot the U.S. government must do to clarify their scope and purpose, and to ensure sanctions accord with human rights. The entire process must be more transparent and aligned with the principles of necessity, proportionality, and legality. Regulators in the UK and EU should issue similar licenses. 

Access Now stands with the protesters who have taken to the street following the death in custody of Mahsa (Jhina) Amini, and calls on authorities to keep the internet accessible for all.