Syria bans the iPhone

Mike Halsey MVP
Dec 4, 2011
Updated • Dec 1, 2012
Mobile Computing

The internet, social networking and in particular smartphones have caused many problems for regimes around the world.  Twitter and Facebook were widely used in the Egyptian uprising earlier in the year, Saudi Arabia has had many an argument with Blackberry maker Research in Motion (RIM) about being unable to access data for security reasons and the Blackberry Messenger service was widely blamed for this summer's riots in London and across the UK.

Now, the Syrian government, which has been coming under increasing political pressure from around the world has banned the import of iPhones to the country.

Currently, other types of smartphone are not affected by the ban but problems arise when states find they cannot readily contorl the flow and freedom of information on the Internet in their country.  North Korea is even going so far as to build a country-wide Intranet service instead.

Since March the UN believes that 4000 people have been killed in Syria though this is difficult to confirm because the world's media are banned from the country.  The information about the ban in iPhones came from Syrian opposition sources who confirmed the ban to the German Press Agency (DPA).

It is unsurprising that a state such as Syria, with it's current problems, would try and stop the free flow of information between its citizens that are opposed to the state.  It is very unlikely however that such a move would be successful.  People find ways of getting prohibited goods across borders in countries such as this as their borders are usually so difficult for the state to police.  While people may not use their iPhones blatantly and in public areas, we can be sure that they will continue to be used by protestors.

This move doesn't prevent the free flow of information in other ways.  Almost all mobile phones these days are capable of accessing services such as Facebook and Twitter and the Syrian government would have to shut off all access to the Internet or all the mobile phone networks to get their way.  An action such as this would cause significant damage to the Syrian economy at a time when the country is already under enormous financial pressure and facing international sanctions.

The attempts by the state to control information getting out of the country also seem to be failing.  It will be interesting to see what tactics the Syrian government try next.  Will they ban other brands or types of smartphone or will they try to curtail Internet access or block websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

The protestors want President Assad to stand down and for the government to be disbanded so that free and fair elections can be held instead.  The political struggles in Syria and in particular the capital city Damascus have been some of the most bloody and violent of any seen in the middle-east this year.  Despite the best efforts of the state however, and presumably with some help from outside, the anti-government protestors are refusing to stand down and give in.

Do you have family or friends in Syria or are you from Syria?  What is your opinion of the country banning the iPhone?


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  1. VD said on December 8, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    Well I guess banning iPhones will not have a great impact in hindering regime critics from posting and exchanging ideas on the net. I am not too well informed about the GNP of Syria but I would guess that the typical protes
    Ter will not spend a monthly paycheck on a mobile. I am with you Mike that nearly every mobile today can be used to access the net. So no impact there.

    One aspect I would like to point out though is that the ban will enable Assad to give nice prezzies to his customs and immigration officers when tourists or reporters with iPhones enter Syria. Nice move Mr President for keeping your despotism marionttes sharp and eager when checking new visitors to your country.

  2. Gregg DesElms said on December 8, 2011 at 4:38 am

    Well… between the iPhone and Android phones, at least Syria banned the right one. [grin]

    Just KIDDING!!!

    Seriously, what a stupid thing.

    I’m tempted to say that I’m glad I live in the US, except that if we keep electing far-Right Republicans, and/or (Insani)Tea-Party members, we won’t be far behind.

    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  3. oss said on December 5, 2011 at 11:42 pm

    What is my opinion of the country banning the iPhone? What is wrong? Has any country in the world the duty to open its door to usa technology? Even “rogue states” that are under threat by USA?
    And what is your opinion about banning of Huawei nad ZTE from Sprint 4G by USA government? Why don’t USA open access to foreign telecom companies?
    Please respect golden rule in your reply.

  4. Emad_24255 said on December 5, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    I’m from syria
    All information in arteical is true
    opinion of banning the iPhone
    It’s wrong decision For all people And
    Assad can’t draw the world withe same color &
    because I’m respiration freedom
    If assad is Hideen all technolgy he can’t repression demonstration

  5. PR said on December 5, 2011 at 6:42 am

    It is unbanned now!!!! when they banned it everyone puts it on the internet but when they unban no one says anything!!!

    1. Raptor said on December 5, 2011 at 8:54 am

      thats the way propaganda works.

  6. No Name said on December 5, 2011 at 1:28 am

    I don’t think the free flow information was the main reason on banning iphone in Syria, because goverment shuts down internet access via mobile in uprising areas. As a result, there is no information access in those areas.
    Moreover, as you mentioned above that almost all mobile brands can access free information sources.
    However, I’m against banning iphone, or any other mobile brand.

  7. Berttie said on December 4, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    Why only iPhones? What can they do that other smart phones can’t?

    1. Mike Halsey (MVP) said on December 4, 2011 at 10:50 pm

      @Berttie don’t they have the power to hypnotise people into performing irrational acts ;)

      1. Crodol said on December 5, 2011 at 8:31 am

        It makes sense to ban a manufacturer from a country which is probably soon going to bomb your own country…

  8. Roman ShaRP said on December 4, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    I don’t care about iPhone bans. iPhone is too expensive device to care much about its presence. I don’t think that iPhones can do any huge impact on Syria.

  9. Raptor said on December 4, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    The iPhone ban was cancled by the government which did not decide that. the decission came by a ministry.

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