Washington: The economic sanctions imposed by US President Barack Obama’s administration have unintentionally undermined the opposition movements they were intended to help in Syria and Iran, and have made it more difficult for the rebels to access technologies that can evade electronic surveillance and censorship, according to activists.
The US sanctions have reportedly forced many Western companies, including technology firms, to sever relationships with Syria and Iran, as the measures have blocked the nations’ access to online services and software, including e-mail, blogging platforms and security tools.
“We are fighting on two sides: the side of the regime and the side of the sanctions. And sometimes we’re not successful. So people take risks, and they are filming and uploading pictures without protection, so the regime can easily arrest them or even kill them,” the Washington Post quoted a Syrian activist, who works with opposition groups across the region, as saying.
The Obama administration has granted exemptions from trade restrictions to Syria and Iran to allow US tech firms to make their goods and services available to customers in those countries.
However, the sheer complexity of the sanctions and the steep fines for violating them, have kept US firms from seeking clarification or attempting to obtain export licenses, the paper said.
Communication equipment and cellphones are known to be crucial for opposition movements, as they provide the Syrian and Iranian governments with tracking information that allows them to monitor and find dissidents, the paper added.
First Published: Wednesday, August 15, 2012, 11:56