The United States said on Friday it would ease export restrictions to improve internet access for Iranians, which has been severely curtailed by Tehran’s government in a crackdown on protesters.
After the death of a woman in the custody of the country’s morality police, Iran cut off internet services to much of the population in what the US said was a move to “prevent the world from seeing its violent crackdown on peaceful protesters”.
“With these steps in mind, we are helping to ensure that the Iranian people are not isolated and in the dark,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“This is a concrete step to provide meaningful support to Iranians who demand respect for their fundamental rights.”
Iran has been rocked by a week of bloody protests over the death of Mahsa Amin, who was arrested for “improperly” wearing an Islamic headscarf.
A 22-year-old Kurdish woman was in a coma for three days after being detained.
The U.S. move will allow technology companies to “expand the range of internet services available to Iranians,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in a statement.
The revised export license will allow access to software, including anti-virus and anti-malware tools, as well as cloud computing and video conferencing services to support “the Iranian people’s access to fact-based information,” the Treasury said.
– Starlink access? –
Blinken said the latest steps “advance our efforts and commitment to ensure that the Iranian people can freely access information on the Internet” and “help resist the Iranian government’s efforts to monitor and censor its citizens.”
“It is clear that the Iranian government is afraid of its people,” Blinken said in a statement.
However, officials admitted to reporters that the move may not have an immediate impact because it “does not remove all means of communications repression.”
“Over time, this will give the Iranian people more tools to address the Iranian government’s repressive efforts,” a senior State Department official said in a conference call.
Billionaire Elon Musk recently said he would ask the Treasury for an export license to allow his Starlink satellite internet company to provide services to Iran, but Friday’s move will focus on software rather than hardware.
Musk, who said on Twitter earlier this week that Starlink had been made available on every continent, earlier this year supplied antennas and modems to the Ukrainian military to improve their communications in the war with Russia.
“Starlink seeks exemption from sanctions against Iran,” Musk tweeted.
A US bipartisan group sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen this week urging her to ease restrictions on internet services to Iran.
The letter called on the department to “clarify the rules on providing services to the Iranian people” and “expedite all related license applications from companies … including Starlink.”
A senior Treasury official told reporters that the general export license does not cover hardware, “so they should write to the Treasury.”
But the finance ministry “welcomes Starlink and others to apply”, the official said.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from the syndicated feed.)