U.S. Treasury and Commerce Departments: Stop Silencing Syrian Voices! #FreeSyriasNet
  • Petitioned Eric Hirschhorn

This petition was delivered to:

Secretary, U.S. Department of Commerce - BIS
Eric Hirschhorn
Director, Office of Terrorism Finance and Economic Sanctions Policy
Linda Stuart Specht
Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, US Department of the Treasury
Jenni LeCompte
Director, Office of Foreign Assets Control
Adam J. Szubin
Director, Office of Foreign Assets Control
Adam J. Szubin
Director of Public Affairs, US Department of Commerce
Jennifer Friedman
Former Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton
Rep. Adam Schiff
Rep. Patrick Murphy
Sen. Joe Donnelly
Sen. Edward Markey

U.S. Treasury and Commerce Departments: Stop Silencing Syrian Voices! #FreeSyriasNet

    1. Dlshad Othman
    2. Petition by

      Dlshad Othman

      Alexandria, VA


Every day, Syrians are risking their lives to broadcast pictures and videos of the uprising -- but because of U.S. sanctions on Syria, they don't have access to essential technologies that would protect them from being spied on and tracked down by the Syrian government - often with the use of computer viruses. By easing current sanctions, the U.S. can help Syrian activists share information more safely.

Because of U.S. sanctions, Syrian people are denied access to tools important to their online safety and security, such as anti-virus software and automated security updates. Syrians can't make purchases in Apple's App Store for their Apple products and it isn’t even possible to target Syrians with online advertising and PSAs on platforms like Facebook. Widely used products like Java, Yahoo Messenger, and mobile app stores like Google Play, which host important tools such as the Guardian Project's popular anti-censorship tools, do not have essential automatic security updates.

Western governments and private corporations have publicly committed to helping Syrian activists, but the reality described by activists on the ground—and documented recently by the Washington Post —does not always match the rhetoric. Recent statements from the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) have made it clear that it is U.S. Government Policy that these tools should be available.  Yet many vital platforms and tools remain inaccessible, because the sanctions are too complex and most companies fear harsh penalties of up to $1m per infractions. 

As Syria undergoes unprecedented political upheaval, there is an opportunity for the Departments of Commerce and Treasury to review existing export controls, examining current language and licensure mechanisms, to address the concerns of private companies and reduce the barriers to licensing. 

We ask that Commerce and Treasury consider:  

• Granting a new general license to provide broader, clearer, and more explicit exemptions on personal communications and security technologies, balancing legitimate concerns over cryptography and financial transactions with the need to protect the safety of at risk populations.  

• Streamlining the licensing process for both companies and non-governmental organizations, and offer clearer formal and informal guidance to companies on licensing procedures. 

Please join me and other human rights advocates from Syria and across the world in calling on the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Commerce to rise to the challenge.

Recent signatures


    1. The Atlantic: Syria's Digital Proxy War

      Jonathan Perri
      Deputy Campaign Director
      Syria's Digital Proxy War

      REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic There is a proxy war going on in Syria, one measured in megabytes rather than in arms. On one side, Iran is providing Bashar al-Assad's regime with the tools of digital dictatorship to locate and bait the Syrian opposition.

    2. Reached 17,500 signatures
    3. حملة لرفع عقوبات أميركية عن الإنترنت بسوريا

      Dlshad Othman
      Petition Organizer

      أطلق ناشطون سوريون حملة على الإنترنت تهدف إلى مطالبة وزارة الخزانة الأميركية برفع القيود التقنية المفروضة منذ سنوات على مستخدمي الإنترنت في سوريا، والذين لا يستطيعون الاستفادة من معظم الخدمات التي تقدمها الشركات الأميركية.

      ويقول القائمون على الحملة -في مقدمة رسالتهم الموجهة إلى وزارة الخزانة والتجارة الأميركية- إن السوريين يخاطرون بحياتهم يومياً لبث الصور ومقاطع الفيديو الخاصة المتعلقة بانتفاضتهم، ولكنهم -بسبب العقوبات الأميركية على بلادهم- لا يصلون إلى بعض التقنيات الأساسية التي يمكن أن تساعدهم في حماية أنفسهم من التعرض للتجسس والتعقب من قِبل حكومتهم، لعدم تمكن السوريين من تحميل مضادات الفيروسات وغيرها من برامج الحماية.

      وتضيف الرسالة أن السوريين ممنوعون من شراء التطبيقات من متجر "آبل"، ومن تحميل تطبيقات أساسية مثل "جافا" وبرنامج "ياهو" للمحادثة، وغير قادرين على الوصول إلى متجر "غوغل بلاي" الذي يحتوي مجموعة هامة من التطبيقات التي تسمح لهم بالالتفاف على الحجب الحكومي وحماية هواتفهم.
      أقرأ المزيد

    4. Reached 15,000 signatures
    5. Report: Sanctions undermine opposition too

      Dlshad Othman
      Petition Organizer

      experts and activists told The Washington Post some U.S. sanctions against Syria and Iran have undermined the insurgents they were intended to help.

      The Post said activists believe the sanctions make it more difficult for opposition groups to get access to technologies to evade electronic surveillance or censorship.

      The Obama administration's sanctions have forced many Western companies, including technology firms, to end business with Syria and Iran -- isolating those governments, the Post said.

      But the sanctions also have blocked opposition access to e-mail, blogs and security tools to prevent user activity from being traced, the newspaper said.

      Read more: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2012/08/14/Report-Sanctions-undermine-opposition-too/UPI-98091344973043/#ixzz24VeJsf3k

    6. 'US sanctions aimed at Syria, Iran hindering opposition'

      Dlshad Othman
      Petition Organizer

      “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.

      Reed more

    7. Syrian Activists Launch Petition to Reform Export Controls on Technology

      Dlshad Othman
      Petition Organizer

      EFF has long contended that existing export controls—maintained by the Departments of Treasury and Commerce—hinder the ability of activists in countries like Syria to communicate. Restrictions on the use of hosting services, antivirus tools, and even circumvention technology make the already-unsafe Syrian Internet even less safe for users. Meanwhile, the Syrian government has repeatedly circumvented sanctions for the purpose of surveilling citizens. These controls are not only ineffective, they’re counterproductive.

      Last week, our position was affirmed by an article in the Washington Post that quoted Syrian activist Dlshad Othman as saying that U.S. sanctions have made it “much harder and more time-consuming to get
      Read More:

    8. Reached 6,000 signatures
    9. Tell US gov't to stop endangering Syrian activists

      Dlshad Othman
      Petition Organizer

      By Clay ClaiborneFollow
      This has never been so true as it is now in the civil war going on in Syria. I would even go so far as to say that secure communications is more important to the success of their struggle against a brutal dictator than guns.

      Secure access to the Internet is of critical importance to the activist network in Syria for without it there would be no network and very little news about the struggle and the slaughter going on. The Assad regime is very aware of this and they have been using every trick in their hackers book to track down Syrian Internet activist and arrest or kill them. One example will give you a clue. In Douma a few weeks back they spied an activist filming Syrian soldiers passing his house from the balcony. They entered the house and slaughtered everyone there, eighteen in all, including a child age four.
      Read More


    10. Reached 1,000 signatures
    11. Sanctions aimed at Syria and Iran are hindering opposition, activists say

      Jonathan Perri
      Deputy Campaign Director

      U.S. sanctions targeting Syria and Iran have inadvertently undermined the opposition movements they are intended to help, making it more difficult for those groups to access technologies that can evade electronic surveillance and censorship, according to security experts and activists.

      The economic sanctions imposed by the Obama administration have forced many Western companies, including technology firms, to sever relationships with Syria and Iran. The measures have helped to isolate those governments internationally.

      But many of the same measures also have blocked access to online services and software — including e-mail, blogging platforms and security tools that prevent user activity from being traced — that could be helpful to opposition movements, experts say.

      Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/sanctions-aimed-at-syria-and-iran-are-hindering-opposition-activists-say/2012/08/14/c4c88998-e569-11e1-936a-b801f1abab19_story.html

    12. Reached 500 signatures
    13. Syrian Students Hold Facebook Protest

      Dlshad Othman
      Petition Organizer

      An organization called the Union of Free Students in Syria is using a new tactic to promote Internet security among Syrian rebels: Facebook protests.
      In the face of widespread hacking by supporters of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, Syrian exiles are trying a new tactic: Internet literacy protests. Members of the Union of Free Students in Syria, an inter-university resistance organization, held an Internet-based protest in the city of Homs and in Saudi Arabia. Protesters held signs with slogans like “Protecting Your Account = Protecting Your Friends: A Different Password for Each Account,” and “Assad's Supporters Are Sending Dangerous Files With Hacked Accounts. Don't Be Tricked: Check With Your Friends Before Opening An Attachment.”
      Reed More

    14. Cyber spying hits Syrian dissidents

      Dlshad Othman
      Petition Organizer

      MARK COLVIN: Some opponents of the Syrian regime say their computers are being infected by computer malware.
      The fear that hacking is being done by pro-Syrian Government supporters - but who's backing them isn't clear.
      Syrians are already on edge about the risk to their security.
      The latest malware campaign plays into their fears and offers a fake security tool called Anti-Hacker.
      Find More:

    15. Reached 250 signatures


    Reasons for signing

      • almost 2 years ago

      هل تمت مناقشة الموضوع داخل الحكومة الامريكي؟ ....... اننا في ظلام دامس

    • Pedro Rabaçal LISBON, PORTUGAL
      • almost 2 years ago

      18 months of war, 36000 deaths, uncountable tortures and rapes.

      Start doing SOMETHING SERIOUS to stop it and crushing a murderous dictatorship!

      • about 2 years ago

      because i belong to this world, and should be treated like the rest of the world.

    • Elisabeth Davis CORONADO, CA
      • about 2 years ago

      Anywhere a government is oppressing people and violating human rights, whether it's Syria or California or anywhere in between, the people should have all tools necessary to keep that government in check, at least, and when necessary destroy that government and start over.

      • about 2 years ago

      cuz im inside syria and its really important ..


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