Treasury Department allows American companies to expand Iran internet access despite sanctions

US sanctions Iran's morality police following death of Mahsa Amini

The Treasury Department said Friday that it will allow American tech companies to expand their businesses in Iran despite U.S. sanctions in a bid to aid Iranians protesting human rights abuses. 

The department said the move would boost internet access for the Iranian people as Washington continues to navigate increasingly strained relations with Tehran.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a new round of sanctions Thursday following nationwide protests over the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, who died while in custody of Iran’s "morality police" last week.

Mahsa Amini

FILE - Exile Iranians of the National Council of Resistance of Iran gather in front of the embassy of Iran in Berlin, Germany, Sept. 20, 2022 after the death of an Iranian woman held by the country's morality police.  (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File / AP Newsroom)


The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said this week it had seen reports suggesting Amini was severely beaten and possibly tortured after being arrested on Sept. 13 for violating Tehran’s strict dress code for women when her hijab was reportedly too loose.

Iranian police have claimed she was not mistreated and died of a heart attack.

Thousands of men and women have taken to the streets across Iran to protest women’s rights under the Islamic Republic.

At least nine people have been killed and hundreds more arrested since protests began last week.

The Treasury Department said Friday it would authorize tech firms to offer more social media and collaboration platforms, along with video conferencing and cloud-based services.

Iran protest

FILE - In this photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, protesters chant slogans during a protest over the death of a woman who was detained by the morality police, in downtown Tehran, Ira (AP Photo, File / AP Newsroom)


The Treasury also provided an update to a general license that removed a condition requiring communications be made only for "personal" use, which it argued was too burdensome for companies.

"As courageous Iranians take to the streets to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, the United States is redoubling its support for the free flow of information to the Iranian people," Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in a statement. "With these changes, we are helping the Iranian people be better equipped to counter the government’s efforts to surveil and censor them."

 The updates announced Friday came after Blinken said the newest round of sanctions were in response to not only the current protests but a history of "human rights violations in Iran – including the violent suppression of peaceful protests."

Morality Police and senior security officials were listed in the department’s sanctions.

Iranian President Iran Ebrahim Raisi clapped back at the U.S. Thursday and asked whether it has investigated all police related deaths, a reference to the Black Lives Matter movement and the subsequent crackdown on police forces across the country. 

Iran women

Protesters hold placards during a rally against Iranian regime outside the House of Representatives in The Hague on Sept. 23, 2022, following the death of an Iranian woman after her arrest by the country's morality police in Tehran. (LEX VAN LIESHOUT/ANP/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)


Raisi accused the U.S. of employing a "double standard."

The Iranian president said Amini’s death will be investigated. 

The UN has called on Iran to make its findings public.