WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department announced Friday that it has allowed American technology companies to expand their business in Iran, one of the world’s most sanctioned countries, and facilitate internet access for Iranians. did.
The Iranian government cut off internet access for most of its 80 million citizens during a crackdown on demonstrators protesting the death of 22-year-old Masa Amini in custody by Iran’s morality police.
Morality police detained Amini last week for not properly covering her hair with the Islamic headscarf known as the hijab, which is mandatory for Iranian women. She Amini collapsed at the police station and she died three days later.
At least nine protesters have been killed in clashes with Iranian security forces since riots broke out over the weekend. The US on Thursday imposed sanctions on moral police and law enforcement leaders.
The Treasury Department said an updated general license issued Friday has authorized tech companies to offer more social media and collaboration platforms, videoconferencing and cloud-based services. The updated license also removed the requirement that communications be “personal,” with the Treasury Department saying the need to verify the purpose of communications is taxing businesses.
“As brave Iranians take to the streets to protest the death of Mercer Amini, the United States doubles down on support for the free flow of information to the Iranian people,” Treasury Undersecretary Wally Adiemo said in a statement. Stated.
“With these changes, we are helping the Iranian people better prepare to counter government surveillance and censorship efforts.”
In 2014, the Sanctions Department of the Ministry of Finance issued a license permitting the export to Iran of software and services that enable the free exchange of communications over the Internet in order to facilitate the free flow of information to Iranian citizens. issued.
Despite the permit, companies are reluctant to do business in Iran for fear of violating existing sanctions and other laws that impose penalties.
On Monday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that his satellite internet company Starlink would seek permission to operate in Iran. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said it was up to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to determine Starlink’s next steps.