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UANI launched its "Tech & Telecom Campaign" to highlight the practices of international firms that provide the Iranian regime with sensitive technology and telecommunications equipment that are used to restrict and monitor internet and cellphone services, as well as facilitate the broadcast and dissemination of regime-sponsored propaganda. The regime uses this technology to facilitate its suppression of the citizens of Iran.
This technology and specialized telecommunications equipment is a critical tool used by the Iranian regime to control its population and maintain its iron grip on power. Although such technology and equipment can have legitimate and legal purposes, the Iranian regime routinely abuses such technology for nefarious ends. Firms that provide such goods and services to Iran must therefore be held accountable and end their business in Iran.
Firms that provide this technology and telecommunications equipment are also liable to be penalized under U.S. sanctions law. Section 106 of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA) specifically calls on the U.S. to ban "procurement of goods or services with a person that exports sensitive technology to Iran." CISADA defines sensitive technology as "hardware, software, telecommunications equipment, or any other technology" that is used to "(A) to restrict the free flow of unbiased information in Iran; or (B) to disrupt, monitor, or otherwise restrict speech of the people of Iran."
The Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (ITRA) expanded the scope of CISADA by adding provisions that impose sanctions on a person that "transfers, or facilitates the transfer of, goods or technologies" "likely to be used by the Government of Iran or any of its agencies or instrumentalities… to commit serious human rights abuses against the people of Iran." This also covers any person that "provides services (including services relating to hardware, software, and specialized information, and professional consulting, engineering, and support services) with respect to [these] goods or technologies."
ITRA also states, "It is the sense of Congress... that satellite service providers and other entities that have direct contractual arrangements to provide satellite services to the Government of Iran or entities owned or controlled by that Government should cease providing broadcast services to that Government and those entities unless that Government ceases activities intended to jam or restrict satellite signals." The bill requires the president to impose sanctions against persons that "(A) prohibit, limit, or penalize the exercise of freedom of expression or assembly by citizens of Iran; or (B) limit access to print or broadcast media, including the facilitation or support of intentional frequency manipulation by the Government of Iran or an entity owned or controlled by that Government that would jam or restrict an international signal."
Through the Tech & Telecom Campaign, UANI seeks to ensure that these companies either take the responsible action to end their business in Iran or be held accountable under U.S. and EU sanction law.
Launched a campaign calling on South African telecom giant MTN to cease its business in Iran. MTN is a 49% shareholder of MTN Irancell, the second largest mobile phone network operator in Iran. The majority 51% is in turn owned by the Iranian regime, which has exploited the MTN Irancell network and technology to monitor and track the activities and communications of peaceful dissidents in Iran.
Launched a campaign calling on Swedish telecom giant Ericsson to end its Iran business and stop working with human rights abuser MTN Irancell. Ericsson provided a mobile-positioning center to Iran in 2009 that can be used to track cellphone users. Ericsson continues to maintain the center but in October 2010 stated it would no longer pursue new business in Iran due to tightening sanctions. New reports, however, show that Ericsson plans to extend its network in Iran and has pledged to support MTN Irancell until 2021.
Launched a campaign calling on Chinese telecom giant ZTE to cease its business in Iran. As part of a $130.6 million contract signed in December 2010, ZTE sold an advanced surveillance system to the IRGC-owned Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI) that enables the Iranian regime to monitor the voice, text messaging and internet communications of its citizens. TCI possesses a near monopoly on landline telephone services and internet traffic in the country. Shortly after UANI's campaign, ZTE announced that it "no longer seeks new customers in Iran and limits business activities with existing customers." UANI continues to call ZTE for its complete exit from Iran.
Launched a campaign calling on Chinese telecom giant Huawei to cease its business in Iran or face U.S. sanctions. Huawei's telecommunications technology has been used by the Iranian regime to conduct surveillance on its citizens, and track down human rights activists and dissidents. Following discussions with UANI, Huawei announced that it would stop seeking new business in Iran and limit existing business. UANI applauded Huawei's decision but continues to call for a full pullout from Iran.
Launched a campaign calling on Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN), a joint venture between Nokia of Finland and Siemens of Germany, to cease its business in Iran or face U.S. sanctions. In the brutal crackdown that followed Iran’s disputed June 2009 presidential elections, NSN technology was used to suppress protesters by monitoring and blocking communications. Due to widespread public condemnation, NSN stopped work on its "monitoring centers" in Iran but continued to do business in the country. Following Huawei’s decision to pull back, NSN announced it would not take on any new business in Iran and would gradually reduce its existing commitments. UANI applauded NSN’s decision but continues to call for a full NSN and Nokia pullout from Iran.
Launched a campaign calling on British telecom firm Creativity Software to stop selling technology to Iran that facilitates oppression. Creativity has done business in Iran through a partnership with regime-controlled MTN Irancell, a firm known to illegally monitor and track Iranian citizens. In 2011, Creativity reportedly sold MTN Irancell a location-tracking system that can track a target's movement every 15 seconds and plot the locations on a map.
Blue Coat Systems is a U.S. telecom company whose products can be used for surveillance purposes such as web filtering and traffic analysis. Six Blue Coat devices have reportedly been found in Iran, each one capable of monitoring thousands of users. Among them, one is present on the Information Technology Co. network, owned and operated by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Following discussions with UANI, Irish telecommunications firm AdaptiveMobile announced to UANI that it ended all business in Iran and terminated its contracts with MTN Irancell. In 2008 AdaptiveMobile sold technology to Iran that filters, blocks and stores text messages. Text message monitoring was required by Iranian security forces.
Following UANI’s campaign, French satellite provider Eutelsat and British telecom firm Arqiva terminated their contract with Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) to broadcast 19 television and radio stations. UANI had called on Eutelsat and Arqiva to cease all services to IRIB given its use as a propaganda tool to televise "show trials" as well as the interrogation and coerced statements of Iranians unjustly imprisoned and tortured by the regime.
Following discussions with UANI, Canadian global satellite operator Telesat announced that it had ended its broadcast of Iranian regime programming and would refrain from business with the Government of Iran and affiliated entities.
Following discussions with UANI, Hong Kong global satellite operator AsiaSat announced that it had ended its broadcast of Iranian regime programming and would refrain from business with the Government of Iran and affiliated entities.
In response to UANI's campaign, Spanish satellite operator Hispasat ended its broadcasting of Iranian regime programming. Specifically, Hispasat ceased transmissions of the Iranian channels Press TV and HispanTV.
Launched a campaign calling on South Korean electronics firm LG to stop selling surveillance products to Iran through regime-controlled entities.
- Mail & Guardian. “Anti-MTN adverts get local gag” (September 7, 2012).
- The Washington Post. “Obama associate got $100,000 fee from affiliate of firm doing business with Iran” (August 5, 2012).
- Bloomberg News. “AdaptiveMobile Drops Iran Contracts on Gear for Text Monitoring” (June 7, 2012).
- BusinessTech. “Lobby group calls for MTN sanctions” (April 25, 2012).
- City Press. “Group puts pressure on MTN, Sasol to exit Iran” (February 18, 2012).
- The Wall Street Journal. “U.S. Lobby Group Seeks MTN Pullout From Iran” (January 27, 2012).
- The Wall Street Journal. “U.S. Looks to Africa to Squeeze Iran” (January 23, 2012).
- The Wall Street Journal. “Nokia Siemens Reduces Iran Ties” (December 13, 2011).
- The Wall Street Journal. “Huawei to Scale Back Business in Iran” (December 10, 2011).
- Financial Times. “Huawei pledges not to pursue Iran business” (December 9, 2011).
- Reuters. “China's Huawei to scale back Iran operations” (December 9, 2011).
- Reuters. “Huawei partner offered embargoed HP gear to Iran” (December 30, 2012).
- Independent Online. “Rasool in MTN, Iran, US manoeuvre” (December 7, 2012).
- Reuters. “How Foreign Firms Tried to Sell Spy Gear to Iran” (December 5, 2012).
- Reuters. “Ericsson helps Iran telecoms, letter reveals long-term deal” (November 20, 2012).
- Reuters. “Huawei Partner Offered U.S. Tech to Iran” (October 25, 2012).
- Reuters. “South Africa Police Probe MTN Iran Graft Allegations” (June 5, 2012).
- Reuters. “Iranian Cell-Phone Carrier MTN Irancell Obtained Banned U.S. Tech” (June 4, 2012).
- Reuters. “U.S. Probes China's ZTE over Tech Sales to Iran” (May 25, 2012).
- Reuters. “China's ZTE Planned U.S. Computer Sale to Iran” (April 10, 2012).
- Reuters. “Chinese firm helps Iran spy on citizens” (March 22, 2012).
- The Wall Street Journal. “In Skies Over Iran, a Battle for Control of Satellite TV” (December 27, 2011).
- The Wall Street Journal. “Broadcasting Tehran's Repression: European satellite providers host state programming even as the regime censors foreign media” (December 9, 2011).
- Bloomberg News. “Iranian Police Seizing Dissidents Get Aid Of Western Companies” (October 31, 2011).
- The Wall Street Journal. “Chinese Tech Giant Aids Iran” (October 27, 2011).
- The Wall Street Journal. “Iran's Web Spying Aided By Western Technology” (June 22, 2009).
Government & Think Tank Reports
- Freedom House. "Freedom on the Net 2012: Iran" (September 24, 2012).
- GAO. "The U.S. Government Is Establishing Procedures for a Procurement Ban against Firms that Sell Iran Technology to Disrupt Communications but Has Not Identified Any Firms" (June 30, 2011).