Wednesday, January 27, 2010


For six years, Syrian users have been affected by U.S. government trade sanctions that exclude certain goods from the Syrian market. Specifically, the Syria Accountability Act (SAA) of 2004 prohibits the export of most goods containing more than 10% U.S.-manufactured component parts to Syria, with the exceptions of food and medicine. Sudan, Cuba, North Korea, and Iran are all also affected by similar sanctions.

In the past year, the fact that the sanctions against Syria include software has garnered significant attention. Last year, in an attempt to comply with the sanctions, LinkedIn unintentionally cut off Syrian users entirely (the sanctions require that sites block software downloads, not general access), a decision that was quickly reversed. Web-hosting companies have also kicked off Syrian, Iranian, and other users, some of which were not actually prohibited from use.

The discussion recently reached a fever pitch when, a day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for a free and open Internet, Syrian users noticed they could no longer access open-source software community SourceForge. Syrian Abdulrahman Idilbi, writing for ArabCrunch, broke the news:

As of January 2008, people from those countries can browse SourceForge projects and download from them, but access to the secure server was not allowed, so they would not be able to log in to SourceForge or contribute to projects. As of January 2010, blocking went further with not allowing people coming from “banned locations” to download anything from, having a response similar to this one:

SourceForge's blockpage for Syrian users
Hiconomics, who tweets here, started up a discussion on the subject on the Yalla! Startup community. He writes:

As some of you may already know… has suddenly blocked Syrian & Sudanese users on the basis of being compliant to US law.

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