U.S. Expands Internet Services to Iran Despite Sanctions

The U.S. will enable technology firms to provide more digital services to people in Iran in a bid to counter the Iranian government's efforts to surveil and censor its citizens, the U.S. Secretary of State says, as deadly protests continue across the country

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The U.S. Treasury on Friday issued a license expanding internet services available to Iranians despite U.S. sanctions. According to the U.S. Secretary of State, the move is meant to help counter the Iranian government's efforts to surveil and censor its citizens.

"As a result of this expanded General License, technology firms will be able to provide more digital services to people in Iran, from access to cloud computing services to better tools to enhance their online security and privacy," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

"The Iranian government has cut off access to the Internet for most of its 80 million citizens to prevent them — and the world — from watching its violent crackdown on peaceful protestors. It is clear that the Iranian government is afraid of its own people, Blinken added.

A woman shouts slogans next to an Iranian flag during a protest against the death of Iranian Mahsa Amini, outside Iran's general consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday.Credit: Francisco Seco/אי־פי

On Thursday, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Iran's morality police over allegations of abuse of Iranian women, saying it held the unit responsible for the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in custody that has sparked protests around Iran.

Mahsa Amini's photo at a support demonstration in Istanbul, yesterday. Women began to use the hijab as a fashion item, wearing it loosely that exposes their hair and sometimes even removing it completely.Credit: OZAN KOSE - AFP

The U.S. Treasury Department also accused the morality police of violating the rights of peaceful protesters and said it had imposed sanctions on seven senior Iranian military and security officials, including the chief of the Iranian army's ground forces.

Public outrage in Iran over Amini's death last week showed no sign of abating after days of protests in Tehran and other cities, with protesters torching police stations and vehicles earlier on Thursday and reports of security forces coming under attack.

Amini, a Kurdish woman, was arrested by the morality police in Tehran for wearing "unsuitable attire" and fell into a coma while in detention. The authorities have said they would investigate the cause of her death.

"Mahsa Amini was a courageous woman whose death in Morality Police custody was yet another act of brutality by the Iranian regime’s security forces against its own people," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.

Ben Samuels contributed to this report.

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