UPDATE (January 30, 2014): Yesterday, Coursera posted an update on site accessibility in sanctioned countries. While Coursera services in Cuba, Iran, and Sudan remain blocked, access for Syrian users has been restored due to an exception that “authorizes certain services in support of nongovernmental organizations’ activities in Syria, particularly as they pertain to increasing access to education.”
Hit by US sanctions, online learning platform Coursera is no longer available for students from Syria, Sudan, Iran and Cuba. Those affected were surprised to have the following message on their screen as they tried to access their courses:
Our system indicates that you are trying to access the Coursera site from an IP address associated with a country currently subjected to US economic and trade sanctions. In order for Coursera to comply with US export controls, we cannot allow you to access to the site.
Iranian student Navid Soltani immediately expressed his outrage on Coursera's Facebook page:
Blogger Leila Nachawati shared her sentiments:
— Leila Nachawati Rego (@leila_na) January 28, 2014
Syrian blogger and developer Anas Maarawi criticized the US sanctions on his blog [ar]:
وبين مطرقة النظام السوري الذي يحجب مئات مواقع الإنترنت، وسندان “العقوبات الأمريكية” يزداد الخناق على الشباب السوري الراغب بالتعلّم، أو بالأحرى من تبقى من الشباب السوري القادر على الوصول إلى ما تبقى من الإنترنت في سوريا.
Between the censorship imposed by the regime, which includes blocking hundreds of internet sites, and the effect of US sanctions, it has become nearly impossible for the remaining youth in the country to have access to online learning.
Editor-in-chief at Wamda Nina Curley was more pragmatic in her approach and asked if it was inevitable:
Was this inevitable? A new solution is needed. Online education platform Coursera blocks students in Syria and Iran: http://t.co/LPizvB61mL
— Nina Curley (@9aa) January 27, 2014
However, one of Coursera's professors, Rolf Strom Olsen, couldn't understand why non-Americans are affected as well:
— Deny Setiyadi (@dgsetiyadi) January 24, 2014