News / Middle East

US Company Shuts Down Iran Opposition Website

Iranian opposition leader Mehdi Karoubi (file photo)
Iranian opposition leader Mehdi Karoubi (file photo)
Reuters
A U.S. web-hosting company has shut the website of an Iranian opposition leader held under house arrest in Tehran to comply with U.S. sanctions, underscoring the unintended impacts of some of the curbs imposed on the Islamic Republic.
 
Washington has imposed sanctions restricting U.S. entities' trade with and provision of services to Iran in a dispute over Tehran's nuclear program. The June election of centrist cleric Hassan Rouhani to the presidency has raised hopes of a settlement and lifting of some sanctions.
 
Hosting company Just Host shut down the website of Mehdi Karoubi, a reformist cleric, in August, his former aide said.
 
Karoubi disputed the 2009 presidential election that returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to office, and protests broke out across Iran. He and fellow reformist leader Mirhossein Mousavi have been held under house arrest since February 2011.
 
Mohammad Hossein Ziya, a former aide to Karoubi who runs his website from the United States, said he received a notice in August from Just Host telling him it could no longer host Karoubi's personal site, www.karroubi.ir.
 
In a letter to Ziya which he showed to Reuters, the company cited sanctions imposed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), under the U.S. Treasury Department.
 
“This sanction extends to include the country-code top level domains .IR, .SY, .KP, and .CU (Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Cuba),” the letter said.
 
“What's frustrating is that on one hand, our sites are filtered inside Iran and so Iranian companies are fearful of providing services to us, and on another hand we face the sanctions,” Ziya said. “It's like being caught in a pair of scissors.”
 
Iranian officials and opposition figures alike have criticized the sanctions for blocking vital imports, while dissidents say they hurt their ability to organize.
 
The June election of President Rohani has raised expectations of a negotiated settlement to Iran's nuclear dispute with the West and a lifting of some sanctions. The West accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran says its research has purely peaceful, civilian aims.
 
Tehran maintains an extensive web filter and blocks sites it deems critical of the government, including Karoubi's personal site, which includes statements, pictures, a biography and news related to the former parliament speaker.
 
The U.S. Treasury Department loosened some sanctions in May, issuing a general license allowing U.S. firms to sell services and technology used for personal communications to Iranians.
 
A U.S. Treasury official declined to comment specifically on the closure of Karoubi's website, but said the general license allows provision of hosting services to Iranians for personal communications.
 
Deanne Dunne, a spokeswoman for Just Host's parent company Endurance International, in response to a Reuters query noted the license excludes the provision of hosting services that are for purposes other than personal communications.
 
“As a provider of cloud-based web solutions for small businesses and individuals, we are subject to the OFAC regulations,” Dunne said in an email. “This means that we cannot provide paid-for web hosting services to residents of certain sanctioned countries, including Iran.”
 
Iran's Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences, affiliated with the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology, licenses the .ir domain, according to its website.
 
Operating a website using the .ir domain involves importing services from Iran, which violates U.S. sanctions, said Clif Burns, a sanctions lawyer at Bryan Cave LLP in Washington, D.C.
 
But OFAC would likely grant Ziya or the firm a license to run the site, Burns said.
 
“OFAC has said, generally speaking, it will grant such a license,” he said. “Once he has the licenses ... the web hosting service ought to do it.”
 
Dunne said Endurance International would apply to OFAC for a license to provide services to a particular website if it fell “within the spirit of the general license”.
 
“However, unless and until we are granted a license, we cannot provide any services to individuals resident in Iran,” she said.

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Zal from: US
September 17, 2013 5:16 PM
Not unintended consequences but part of a backdoor deal between the negotiators!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid