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Iran: Does Easing Internet Sanctions Make Any Difference?

An Internet cafe in Tehran, Iran. Photo by Mr_L_in_Iran. Copyright © Demotix (24/02/11)

An Internet cafe in Tehran, Iran. Photo by Mr_L_in_Iran. Copyright © Demotix (24/02/11)

The U.S. Department of Treasury is easing sanctions on a list of services “incident to the exchange of personal communications over the Internet or software necessary to enable such services.”

According to an announcement on March 20, 2012, these services include Yahoo Messanger, Google Talk, Skype (non-fee based), Acrobat Reader, Flashplayer, Java and GoogleChrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer.

Most Iranian Internet users would this is welcome news, but will it make any real difference to Iranians? What services ought to be on the list? And what do Iranians in Iran think about it?

Five netizens share their opinion and knowledge with Global Voices below.

Impact: Curb your enthusiasm

Hadi Nili, a journalist and Global Voices author:

I guess such a decision would not mean so much to Iranians since they have already coped with this restrictions and there are many alternative ways for them to find access to what recently eased.

Tori Egherman, a civil society activist and American blogger who lived several years in Iran:

On one hand, this is a long time coming. On the other, it is a cosmetic change that won't do most Iranians much good. Bad economic policy combined with sanctions are crippling the economy so much that an internet connection will become a luxury for most in Iran. The problem with the sanctions is that the goal is to bring Iran to its knees, rather than promote a more open and democratic society. In the end, they are a gift to the regime and give them more control over the population.

Arash Kamangir, a blogger, researcher and jury member for Deutsche Welle's Best of Blogs (The BOBs):

The ultimate problem in Iran is how to connect to the Internet. How the person is going to interact with the net is a secondary question, quite often eclipsed by the primary one. But that doesn't mean that what has happened will not have any impact. The importance of the new developments is mostly psychological. It is helpful when Iranians can see the US is with them, and not against them. The easing of the sanctions can help in this respect.

Amin Sabeti, a blogger and freelance media analyst:

I don't think it has a significant impact on Iranians because they have already downloaded all of them from mirror websites or using VPNs to download GTalk, Yahoo Messenger, etc. But I believe this is good starting point that convince US companies to lift sanctions against Iranian users.

Mehid Yahyanejad, a Balatarin founder:

I think this will have a positive impact for the Internet users in Iran. The access of Iranians to Internet is mostly crippled by the Iranian government and there is are only limited things that the US government can do to make any impact in this regard.

Any missed services?

Our five netizens’ choices are: PGP encryption, anti-virus software and their updates, the Android Market, VPNs and being being able to host a website outside of Iran.

Any news from inside?

Hadi Nili:

I have not seen so much enthusiasm and excitement over this recent decision. Iranians have already been coping with this restrictions. There have been some misapprehensions that they thought U.S. administrations is going to ease financial sanctions.

Tori Egherman:

Everyone I speak with is stressed about war, the economy, and the rising prices. No one I speak with has the energy or time for anything else. Today a dear friend told me jokingly, “This is our year of production. That's all we can do.”

Arash Kamangir:

Yes. There is some level of excitement. One major reaction to this development is that many of the services involve financial transactions, which is virtually an impossibility for Iranian residents. Some argue that with this decision private companies will be less anxious when doing business with Iranian customers.

Amin Sabeti:

The interesting point is feedbacks from Iran and I didn't find any feedbacks in social networks like Twitter, Friendfeed or Facebook! It proves my claim in 1st question that it hasn't a significant impact on Iranian users because they know how to solve their problems by downloading Skype, GTalk, etc by other means.

Mehdi Yahyanejad:

Not yet.

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