The Treasury Department has lifted a ban on the export of cellphones and software to Iran, meaning that firms like Apple can sell products legally in the country for the first time. The U.S. is hoping that the move will have a political effect on Iranians, reversing what it calls Tehran’s attempts to “silence its people.”
“We certainly care deeply about the Iranian people and their day-to-day lives,” Wendy Sherman, the state department’s undersecretary for political affairs, told the BBC. “That general license will allow both software and hardware to move forward to Iran and to the Iranian people so that they can have freedom to communicate with each other in ways that they don’t always have.”
Iranian citizens have limited access to the Internet. Access to many foreign sites is prohibited and home-grown versions of big-name sites like Mehr, Iran’s version of YouTube have popped up. Last year, Gmail was blocked for a week, although the regime later admitted its target had been the Google-owned video site, and not the firm’s email service.