UANI Calls on South Africa’s MTN to Exit Iran, Where It Has Helped the
Regime Crush Dissent, or Face Sanctions
NEW YORK -- June 6, 2013
On Thursday, one week before Iran’s presidential election, United Against
Nuclear Iran (UANI) called for sanctions to be imposed on South African
telecommunications firm MTN for its business in Iran and its role in
facilitating human rights abuses against the Iranian people.
MTN is the world’s most egregious corporate actor when it comes to Iran, and
is accordingly listed first on UANI’s “Most Wanted” list. MTN is a 49%
shareholder in MTN Irancell; the majority 51% is owned and controlled by the
regime itself. During the 2009 Iranian presidential elections, the regime
utilized MTN Irancell’s network and technology to block and monitor the
communications of dissidents, leading to the unlawful arrest, detention and
torture of Iranian citizens. Shamefully, MTN also carried out orders from the
regime to shut off SMS messaging and Skype.
Today, UANI is calling on MTN to immediately exit Iran, or face the full force
of the U.S. government sanctions. MTN should be blacklisted for its violation
of a number of U.S. sanctions. UANI is building on the efforts of like-minded
legislators and policymakers, such as Senator James Inhofe, to take action
In a letter to MTN Group President and CEO Sifiso Dabengwa, UANI CEO,
Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, wrote:
… MTN’s poor record on human rights in Iran is already well established.
During the 2009 election protests, MTN Irancell reportedly ordered its Chinese
telecommunications partner Huawei to suspend text messaging and block the
Internet phone service Skype on its network in order to disrupt communications
among demonstrators. According to reports, MTN Irancell had also been supplied
with the technology to filter, block and store text messages by the Irish
telecom company AdaptiveMobile in 2008. Iranian security forces had access to
this technology and misused it for their own repressive surveillance and
censorship purposes. MTN Irancell was also reportedly capable of intercepting
and recording telephone communications through equipment provided by Nokia
As Iranian citizens’ opposition to the regime continued through 2009, MTN
Irancell sought to acquire location-tracking technology in order to pinpoint
the exact whereabouts of democratic dissidents. … In 2011, Creativity Software
reportedly sold MTN Irancell an even more advanced location tracking system
that has the capability to record a user’s location data every fifteen
seconds, and generate reports of that individual’s movements. Iran’s security
forces have access to this tracking technology and have misused it to locate,
detain, and interrogate anti-government demonstrators. Even more troubling are
reports that Iranian security officials are given open access to subscriber
details at MTN Irancell’s Tehran headquarters, which have been used to acquire
information on democracy activists.
The situation could deteriorate even further for MTN if MTN Irancell were to
be sanctioned under U.S. sanctions law pertaining to human rights in Iran.
Given its facilitation of human rights abuses in Iran and violations of U.S.
trade controls as documented above, it is quite clear that the MTN Irancell
network should be blacklisted for its violation of a number of U.S. sanctions
bills and presidential executive orders. These include The Comprehensive Iran
Sanctions Accountability and Divestment Act of 2010 (“CISADA”), the Iran
Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (“ITRSHRA”), and Executive
Order 13606, “Grave Human Rights Abuses Via Information Technology” in Syria
and Iran (“GHRAVITY sanctions”) … U.S. politicians have already called on MTN
Irancell to be held accountable. In a recent letter, Senator James Inhofe of
Oklahoma requested that Jack Lew, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, “recognize”
that the MTN Group, “through its partial ownership of MTN Irancell, … had
played a role in human rights abuses.” UANI is building on the efforts of
Senator Inhofe, and is committed to building a coalition of like-minded
legislators and policymakers that will take action against MTN Irancell.
UANI launched its MTN campaign in January 2012. In September 2012, the South
African Mail & Guardian reported that MTN intimidated Johannesburg advertisers
into not running a UANI billboard revealing MTN’s human rights violations in
UANI has requested a response from MTN by June 10, 2013.
Click here to read UANI’s full letter to MTN.
Click here to send a message to MTN.
Click here to visit UANI's Iranian Regime Election Repression Toolkit.
United Against Nuclear Iran
Nathan Carleton, 212-554-3296
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