Treasury Department allows American companies to expand Iran internet access despite sanctions

The Treasury Department said Friday it would allow American tech companies to expand their businesses in Iran despite US sanctions to help Iranians protest human rights abuses.

The department said the move would improve internet access for the Iranian people as Washington continues to manage increasingly strained relations with Tehran.

Foreign Minister Antony Blinken announced a new round of sanctions on Thursday after nationwide protests over the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, who died in the custody of Iran’s “morality police” last week.

Mahsa Amini

FILE – Iranians in exile from the National Council of Resistance of Iran gather outside the Iranian embassy in Berlin, Germany, September 20, 2022, following the death of an Iranian woman being held by the country’s morality police. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, file/AP Newsroom)

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said this week it had seen reports that Amini was badly beaten and possibly tortured after she was arrested on September 13 for flouting Tehran’s strict dress code for women when her hijab was reportedly too loose.

Iranian police have claimed she was not mistreated and died of a heart attack.

Thousands of men and women have taken to the streets across Iran to protest for women’s rights under the Islamic Republic.

At least nine people have been killed and hundreds more arrested since the protests began last week.

The Treasury Department said Friday it will empower tech companies to offer more social media and collaboration platforms, as well as video conferencing and cloud-based services.

Iran protest

FILE – In this photo, taken by a person not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, protesters chant slogans during a protest over the death of a woman by morality police in downtown Tehran, Ira, was arrested (AP Photo, File / AP Newsroom)

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The Treasury Department also provided an update to a general license that removed a condition that communications should be for “personal” use only, which it said was too onerous for businesses.

“As courageous Iranians take to the streets to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, the United States is doubling down on its support for the free flow of information to the Iranian people,” Deputy Finance Minister Wally Adeyemo said in a statement. “With these changes, we are helping the Iranian people be better equipped to counter government efforts to monitor and censor them.”

The updates announced on Friday came after Blinken said the latest round of sanctions was not just a response to the current protests, but to a history of “human rights abuses in Iran — including the violent repression of peaceful protests.”

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Morality police and senior security officials were listed in the department’s sanctions.

Iranian President Iran Ebrahim Raisi clapped back at the US on Thursday, asking if it had investigated all police-related deaths, a reference to the Black Lives Matter movement and subsequent crackdown on police forces across the country.

Iranian women

Demonstrators hold placards during a rally against the Iranian regime outside the House of Representatives in The Hague September 23, 2022, after an Iranian woman died in Tehran after being arrested by the country’s vice squad. (LEX VAN LIESHOUT/ANP/AFP via Getty Images/Getty Images)


Raisi accused the US of using “double standards”.

The Iranian President said Amini’s death was under investigation.

The UN has asked Iran to make its findings public.

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