The Treasury and State departments have authorized the sale of mobile phones and other communications devices, software, and services to Iranians in a lifting of restrictions intended to "empower the Iranian people as their government intensifies its efforts to stifle their access to information."
The shift marks the first time Apple's iPhone can be exported legally to Iran, according to the BBC
"As the Iranian government attempts to silence its people by cutting off their communication with each other and the rest of the world, the United States will continue to take action to help the Iranian people exercise their universal human rights, including the right to freedom of expression," the U.S. Treasury Department said in a press release
"The people of Iran should be able to communicate and access information without being subject to reprisals by their government."
The general sales license, however, would not authorize the export of any equipment to the Iranian government or to any individual on the Specially Designated Nationals list which includes those who have "used communications technology to silence and intimidate the Iranian people."
Joshua Lamel, executive director of Foundation for Innovation and Internet Freedom, welcomed the move.
"Information and communications technology has played a critical role in enabling openness and freedom globally. The Arab Spring has taught us the important role these technologies can play, and this is a step in the right direction by the U.S. to foster a free and open Iran," said Lamel.
The move comes just ahead of the June 14 elections in Iran. Social media played a prominent role in the disputed 2009 elections that returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power. Green Movement opposition protesters used social media extensively to organize street demonstrations, according to BBC News.
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