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Sanctions no obstacle as Iranians get their iPads

Sanctions no obstacle as Iranians get their iPads

U.S. products are widely available in Iran's IT market; Economic and financial sanctions did not stop imports; Dubai-based Iranian businesses mull shifting to Turkey.

January 20, 2011 10:52 by


Washington and its European allies have followed up the U.N. sanctions with their own measures aimed at making it more difficult for Iran to gain access to international banking services and hampering outside investments in its vital oil and gas sectors.

But all this has not stopped U.S.-branded goods from making their way into the Iranian market.

“Global sanctions might have brought more limitations for Iranian traders, but they have learned how to meet their needs,” said Bahman, a shop owner selling Apple products who asked that his surname not be used.

Imported goods in Iran come mainly from Europe or Asia. Still, in the digital field, it is relatively easy to find a product made in the United States or under the license of a U.S. company.

“We had iPad in Tehran less than a month after it hit the global market,” Bahman said. “It was the same for other American brands like Dell, Hewlett-Packard, BlackBerry or Motorola.”

Like Apple’s iPhones, BlackBerry smartphones, made by the Canadian company Research In Motion, act as platforms for a range of applications that cannot be obtained via Iran’s tightly controlled telecommunications networks. This limitation on their functionality, however, has not reduced their appeal to fashion-conscious Iranians seeking a high-tech status symbol.

“People in Iran have a desire to move along with the world in using the latest electronic products — even if some of their new features do not work here,” Bahman said.

Some features of new digital products — such as TweetDeck in iPad for users of the Twitter social network, or Kindle, which allows users to download e-books from the online retailer Amazon — do not work in Iran because of poor and restricted Internet and telecommunication connectivity.

While U.S. officials assert that it is sanctions that are responsible for hampering the development of Iran’s nuclear program, the situation is different in the personal technology sector.

Retailers and consumers say that if anything is going to slow the trade in electronic gadgets, it will not be sanctions but rather Iranians’ reduced spending power. And the blame for that, they say, rests with domestic economic policies and not international steps against Iran.

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