Jewish Journal

Shame on Nokia and Siemens for aiding Iran’s human rights abuses!

by Karmel Melamed

October 7, 2009 | 11:18 am

This past summer with the student uprisings over the fraudulent elections in Iran,  opposition groups and those protesting against the lack of true freedom in Iran were dealt a major blow when trying to coordinate their efforts via the Internet using telecommunications technology. Little did they know their government was spying on them with more sophisticated technology.

Thanks to a joint venture of Siemens AG, the German conglomerate, and Nokia Corp., the Finnish cell phone company—one of the world’s most sophisticated mechanisms for controlling and censoring the Internet was sold to Iran’s regime and enabled the regime’s thugs to examine the content of individual online communications on a massive scale in the country. The end result of using this multi-million dollar technology were beatings, murders and imprisonments by the Iranian government against innocent young Iranians demanding greater freedoms and human rights in their homeland. Sadly not only are Siemens and Nokia facilitating the regime’s repressive practices by providing this technology to the Iranian government, but these companies are also providing the last support for the faltering Iranian economy and facilitating the regime’s diversion of funds to its illicit nuclear program by doing business with Iran.

A June 2009 article in Wall Street Journal reported that the Iranian government’s monitoring of Internet information goes well beyond blocking access to Web sites or severing Internet connections. In fact the regime has been engaged in what is known in the tech world as “deep packet inspection” that allows authorities to not only block communication but to monitor it to gather information about individuals, as well as alter it for disinformation purposes. Not surprisingly during this past July’s election protests in Iran, the regime was altering information student groups were sending to each other via e-mail and through social networking websites in order to cause confusion among protestors and trap them before they could organize protests.

Nokia and Siemens’ selling of such equipment to Iran and other regimes considered repressive is not only morally reprehensible because the technology is used to crack down on dissent, but it is one of the clearest examples of multi-national corporations profiting from countries engaged in human rights abuses. For the executives at Nokia and Siemens to claim that they were unaware of the Iranian government’s use of their technology to crack down on peaceful protestors is ridiculous for anyone to believe considering the Iranian regime’s long history of censorship and reign of terror on dissidents in the country. One can’t help drawing parallel’s between Nokia and Siemens and hundreds of private corporations in Europe who during World War II benefited financially from providing technology the Nazis used to spy on dissents and ultimately eliminate their “enemies” in the concentration camps.

Shame on Nokia and Siemens for lacking the moral integrity and still selling their technology for what they clearly knew would be used against innocent people seeking greater freedoms in Iran! Both of these companies must be barred in the U.S. and elsewhere in the free world from obtaining substantial government contracts. Why should any of our tax dollars go to any company that does not have an ounce of decency when it comes to human rights violations? Thankfully the Los Angeles City government recently dealt Siemens a major blow when it decided not to grant the German company a lucrative contract for their railway project. Perhaps now Siemens will wake up to the reality that they cannot do business with the regime in Iran and at the same time also enjoy financial successes elsewhere in the world! 

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Karmel Melamed is an internationally-published freelance journalist based in Southern California.

Since 2000, Melamed has specialized in covering the growing influential...

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