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.
In a statement reportedly issued by the Syrian Finance Ministry, and reported by the BBC, the authorities "warn anyone against using the iPhone in Syria."
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?Advertisement
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