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  • 13 July 2012
  • Posted By Milad Jokar
  • 4 Comments
  • discrimination, Events in Iran, Nuclear file, Sanctions

Why Iran’s Hardliners Love the iPhone and McDonalds Sanctions

Iran's Mash Donalds (Mash refers to Mashhadi or Mashtee--someone who has made the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mashhad)

If you’re an Iranian who wants to get the latest iPhone, iPad or Macbook, it may just be easier for you to purchase one in Iran than in the U.S.

Apple Store in Sa’dat Abad, Tehran

New pressures to “tighten the noose” on Iran through sanctions have indeed led to discrimination against Persian-speakers at Apple Stores.  One has to wonder how banning Iranians from having access to iPods on which they can listen to Rihanna’s latest hit (yes, Rihanna’s latest hit is available in Iran) will “change Iran’s behavior” concerning its uranium enrichment program.

But despite the sanctions and the draconian ways they’re being enforced, in Iran, iPhones are everywhere.  And the way they get to Iran, far from “squeezing the regime” actually benefits smugglers linked to the state and the IRGC (Revolutionary Guard).

To purchase the latest Apple products, Iranians just have to go to their local “Apple Store” in Iran. They can choose their items online or in person, and can definitely speak Farsi when purchasing an iPad without worrying about whether the salesperson will take their money.

Indeed, everything is available in Iran for a price. Many Iranians still walk down Africa Street, known as Jordan Street  before the revolution, in their Air Jordans, gel in their hair, while perusing DVDs of the latest Hollywood movies starring Will Smith, Matt Demon or Angelina Jolie on display by street vendors.

The Colonel in Iran serves "Kabaaby" Fried Chicken

U.S. sanctions also prohibit U.S. fast food companies from opening in Iran. It is unclear what is the logic of banning McDonalds in Iran and how denying Iranians the pleasures of true American junk food will stop Iran’s nuclear program.  And yet, while it’s always nice to enjoy a good khoreshte bamie or ghorme sabzi, Iranians can still skip rice and go to a good KFC (kabaaby Fried Chicken), Mash Donald’s (Mash refers to one who has made the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mashhad) or simply grab a coffee at Raees—featuring a mustachioed version of Starbucks mermaid—on Seoul Street in Tehran.

Because of sanctions, most of these stores are knockoffs. However, all the soft drinks, clothes,
phones and other electronic devices are authentic. These goods come into Iran through Dubai, Iraq, and the shores of the Persian Gulf, and supply the Iranian Bazaari (merchants and shop keepers) who sell these items openly in their stores.

  • 10 July 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
  • 1 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup: July 10, 2012

Iran Considers Response to Rial’s Decline

Iran is considering anew system of variable exchange rates for different products in order to stabilize the price of basic goods in the face of a significant slide in the value of Iran’s currency, the Rial. However, the new plan is meeting “heavy resistance from statesmen who have long promoted the private sector,” (Washington Post 7/9).

US Calls on Iran to Release Pastor

The US has called on Iran to release Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, a convert to Christianity from Islam, who was jailed in 2009 and sentenced to death for his conversion. In a statement, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the pastor, “still faces the threat of execution for simply following his faith, and we repeat our call for Iranian authorities to release him immediately” (Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty 7/10).

Iran Reportedly Shuts Off Some Oil Wells

Western and Iranian sources say that Iranian oil production has dropped below 3 million barrels per day (bpd), forcing Iran to shut off some wells in its oil fields for lack of export demand and storage capacity. Peter Wells of geological consultancy Neftex Petroleum commented, “The more production is shut in, the harder and longer it is to bring back production when it is needed,” (Reuters 7/10).

  • 28 June 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
  • 0 Comments
  • discrimination

Havaar Leads Flash Mob Over Apple’s Sanctions Discrimination

After Sahar Sabet’s account of discrimination at an Apple store made the overzealous implementation of sanctions a national topic and civil rights issue, Havaar, a group which speaks out against war, sanctions and state repression, organized a flash mob a the 5th avenue flagship Apple store in New York City.  The group of Iranian Americans and other pro-civil rights protesters went to the store chanting, “Apple stop profiling!” and “Technology is for all people!”  They came bearing posters with slogans as “Sanctions hurt the people not the regime.”  Members of the group made a point to speak in Persian — the same action that has led some Apple stores to refuse service to Iranian-American customers.  Click “read more” to watch a video of the flash mob:

  • 25 June 2012
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 1 Comments
  • discrimination

19-year old Georgia teen reiterates: Apple employee discriminated

Sahar Sabet, the 19-year old Iranian American teenager at the center of the Apples discrimination controversy, issued a statement through her attorney today to “correct erroneous media and organizational reports” that were claiming Apple did not discriminate against her because they were just following the law.

The evidence suggests that, yes, she was in fact discriminated against and that, yes, broad sanctions encouraged sanctions vigilantism and profiling by retail employees:

“On the date in question, Sabet’s family had relatives visiting from Houston, Texas.  Ms. Sabet decided to take her uncle, aunt, and grandmother with her to the mall that afternoon.  Sabet received assistance from two different Apple employees while finalizing her decision on which specific iPad model to select. Ultimately, she selected an iPad and was preparing to make her purchase.  It was at this time that Sabet’s uncle, a native Farsi speaker, had a question regarding an iPhone that he was considering purchasing for his daughter in Tehran, Iran.  Sabet, a United States citizen and native English speaker, served as a translator.  After asking her uncle’s question to one of the Apple employees that had been assisting her, she translated the answer into Farsi for her uncle’s benefit.

“Then, as Sabet attempted to complete her purchase, another Apple employee, previously unknown to Sabet, approached her and rudely demanded to know what language Sabet and her uncle were speaking.  When Sabet replied that they were speaking Farsi, the Apple employee, with no other basis, denied Sabet the sale and stated that “our countries do not have good relations with each other.”  Sabet’s attempts to escalate the situation to the store’s management were fruitless as the manager on duty simply sided with the employee’s decision to refuse Sabet the sale on account of her ethnicity and national origin.”

The full statement via Sahar’s attorney is below.

  • 25 June 2012
  • Posted By Roshan Alemi
  • 0 Comments
  • discrimination, Sanctions

Apple’s ‘Iran Policy’ Shows Why We Can’t Shy Away from Politics

NIAC’s Jamal Abdi and Nobar Elmi published a piece in Tehran Bureau last Friday in which they argue that recent allegations of discrimination by Apple employees against Iranian Americans are rooted in flawed US-Iran sanctions policy. They write, “we need to realize that what is happening is not just a series of individual cases of alarming behavior,” but are instead “just the latest example of sanction laws being so broad that they are misinterpreted or overenforced and mistakenly applied.”

What is happening at Apples stores, Elmi and Abdi say, is not just the result of private companies “being overly cautious or not educating their employees about their sanctions policies,” but also a result of the U.S. government “continuing to broaden the sanctions and not issuing clear exemptions and guidelines for what is allowed.”  They do point out the Obama Administration’s efforts to exempt certain communication software to promote Internet freedom in Iran, but say private companies like Google and Yahoo are, regardless, still blocking basic Internet communication tools in Iran.

Their conclusion is that the Apple episode demonstrates the many ways US-Iran relations affect our community, both inside and out of Iran, and cite this as why Iranian Americans must not to shy away from politics:

“None of us should be surprised that this is happening. Unintended consequences are the reality of broad sanctions. It’s been the policy of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) for many years to oppose broad, indiscriminate sanctions because they don’t punish the right targets (e.g., human rights abusers, the Iranian government) and instead hit ordinary people. The first time NIAC dealt with discrimination due to sanctions policy was ten years ago, when Monster.com prohibited job seekers from listing any work experience in Iran and other sanctioned countries, and removed such references from their resumes. We challenged Monster’s overenforcement and succeeded in correcting the company’s policy.

“We need to call on the U.S. government to take the necessary steps to ensure sanctions do not continue to be misapplied or overenforced to the detriment of Iranian Americans and Iranians. We also need to continue to call out private companies that are overenforcing and misapplying sanctions. And we need to challenge companies like Apple, whose employees’ actions are demeaning and discriminatory.”

To read the full article, click here.

U.S. Companies Blocking Communication Tools in Iran

With Apple’s vigilante-sanctions-enforcement/racial profiling of Iranian Americans receiving well-deserved attention, we wanted to spotlight similar over-enforcement of broad sanctions by tech companies impacting people inside Iran.  Below is a list of services not technically blocked by sanctions but still denied to Iranians by U.S. companies, compiled via researcher Collin Anderson who maintains and updates the list here:

Publisher Product Blocked By Company Require License? Notes
Google Google Talk X N
Google AdSense X Y
Google AdWords X Y
Google Android Market X N
Google Google Code X N
Google App Engine X N Cannot Host or Access Resource on Platform
Yahoo Yahoo Messenger X N
Yahoo Yahoo Web Messenger No SSL Support N
GoDaddy (all) X N Webpage Does Not Respond
Adobe (commercial products) X Varies Webpage Does Not Respond
Geeknet, Inc. Sourceforge X ITAR Issue
McAfee MacAfee Antivirus X Y
Symantec/Norton (all) ? Y
AVG Technologies (all) X Y
Oracle MySQL X Not Where Free
Oracle NetBeans X N
Xacti Group inbox.com X N
cPanel, Inc. cPanel X Y
Logitech (all) X Varies

Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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