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UANI Condemns MTN’s Partnership with Iranian Regime, Calls for Sanctions on MTN and for Entities Working with MTN to Sever Ties

On Wednesday, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) CEO, Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, issued the following statement regarding a report by Reuters stating that South African Telecom giant MTN, prior to commencing its business in Iran, was aware that Iranian security officials would have access to its users' communications and location information. The report also states that Iranian security officials understood MTN would enhance its surveillance capabilities in Iran over time and share such information with the regime:

We have long known that MTN has blood on its hands through its unconscionable partnership with Iranian regime -- a partnership that has actively facilitated systematic human rights violations. It is particularly troubling to now learn that MTN was fully informed of the Iranian regime’s nefarious intentions to misuse its technology prior to the launch of MTN Irancell.

At this point, one can only conclude that MTN and its CEO Sifiso Dabengwa were lying earlier this year when they denied knowledge and involvement in Iran’s misuse of telecommunications technology to facilitate human rights abuses. MTN’s claim that it is a “liberating force for Iranians” seems only more insincere in light of this new information. In reality, MTN entered into a partnership with the regime knowing full well that human rights violations were likely to occur. Mr. Dabengwa should apologize for his misleading statements.

MTN has put profit over principle in Iran and must immediately be sanctioned by the U.S. government. Furthermore, the U.S. Government should bar MTN from working with any company domiciled or doing business in the U.S. until it ends all its Iran business. MTN must be effectively blacklisted, and any company doing business in the U.S. must sever its ties to MTN.

The Iranian regime’s response to this report is nonsensical and offensive. The regime is well known to flagrantly and brutally violate the rights of innocent Iranians, and openly defy the principles of the UN and free world. MTN has long been aware of the financial and reputational risks of doing business with the Iranian regime – it must now deal with the consequences.

MTN was a charter member of UANI's Iran Business Registry, launched in 2009, and is a continuing focus of UANI’s Tech & Telecom Campaign. MTN is the primary partner of the Iranian regime's mobile telecommunications networks, as a 49% shareholder in MTN Irancell, the rest of which is owned by the regime itself. MTN has carried out orders from the regime to shut off text messaging and Skype during times of political protest, and reportedly has a floor in its Tehran headquarters where Iranian military officials compile and access tracking data.

MTN has engaged in systematic corruption in Iran, even successfully pressuring the South African government into not voting to refer Iran’s nuclear program to the UN Security Council. In September, the South African Mail & Guardian reported that MTN intimidated Johannesburg advertisers into not running a UANI billboard revealing MTN’s human rights violations in Iran.

Click here to read the Reuters report, “How foreign firms tried to sell spy gear to Iran.”
Click here to read UANI's February 29 letter to MTN.
Click here to read UANI's January 25 letter to MTN.
Click here and here to see UANI's MTN advertisements.
Click here to send a message to MTN.

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