October 26, 2022

Rep. Mike Levin Calls for Action to Help Iranians Access the Internet Amid Continued Protests

Oceanside, CA – Yesterday, U.S. Representative Mike Levin (D-CA) sent a letter to Treasury Department Secretary Janet Yellen requesting the Department expeditiously review and approve licensing requests to help provide internet service to Iranian civilians amid protests in the country. Doing so would reinforce United States policy to support the Iranian people and facilitate the free flow of information to Iranian civilians protesting for their rights.

The Treasury Department has the authority to issue licenses that authorize certain transactions which would otherwise be subject to sanctions, such as the use of certain hardware, software, and communications services. The brutal death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini last month sparked anti-government protests that erupted in as many as 80 cities across Iran. In response, the Iranian government has violently cracked down on peaceful protestors and cut off access to the internet and other communication services. This suppression of the free flow of information violates international human rights standards and democratic principles. While the Treasury Department recently issued an updated general license in support of personal communications in Iran, further guidance or licenses may be needed.

“The United States must support the Iranian people and help facilitate the free flow of information to Iranian civilians as they protest for their basic rights,” said Rep. Mike Levin. “The recent murder of Mahsi Amini by the Iranian government has sparked worldwide outrage and led to Iran shutting down internet and other communication pathways for Iranian civilians. This is unacceptable, and I am urging the Treasury Department to facilitate efforts to provide Iran civilians with access to the internet.”

Click here or see below for the full letter:

Dear Secretary Yellen,

I write to you to request that the U.S. Department of the Treasury take every step within its jurisdiction to support efforts to provide the Iranian people with Internet access and communications services. As you know, the Islamic Republic of Iran is violently cracking down on peaceful protests that have recently spread throughout the country in response to the death of Mahsa Amini, after she was arrested and detained by morality police officers. Reports put the total number of protestors killed by Iranian security forces in the dozens, if not hundreds. As the Iranian government moves to suppress all dissent, it has deliberately restricted the Iranian people’s access to the Internet and cut off telecommunication services.

In 2014, the Treasury Department issued the General License (GL D-1) to authorize “certain services, software, and hardware incident to personal communications,” in accordance with the policy of the United States Government to facilitate the free flow of information to Iranian citizens. In September 2022, the Treasury issued a General License (GL D-2) to further increase support for internet freedom in Iran by ensuring U.S. sanctions guidance is up to date with changes in modern technology since 2014. The updated license will authorize additional services, platforms, and software to assist the Iranian people. If a request for guidance or a license request to provide communications services or software to Iran is submitted, I ask that the Treasury Department review and approve it expeditiously.

Utilizing their right to freedom of expression, thousands of Iranians are protesting their government in as many as 80 cities. The United States must honor our commitment democracy and human rights by ensuring they have access to the communication services and technologies they need to organize and exercise their fundamental rights. As such, I encourage your Department to submit a detailed report to Congress of all the requests for guidance and clarity from license applicants from September 16, 2022, when the protests began, until the end of the calendar year; a detailed report of all licensing requests your Department receives regarding the provision of Internet and communications services to Iranian civilians from September 16 to the end of the calendar year; and a detailed report of all licensing requests that are denied by your Department regarding the provisions of Internet and communications services to Iranian civilians from September 16 until the end of the calendar year, as well as justification for why the requests were not approved.

Thank you for your consideration of these requests. Please feel free to reach out with any questions, and I look forward to receiving your response.