Government censorship has taken a significant role in Iranian society–Reporters Without Borders, an international non-profit that supports global freedom of the press, has rated the country as one of the world’s biggest prison states for journalists.
Now, Iranian government censors are attempting to block access to a new target: cryptocurrency exchanges.
“Every crypto exchange in Iran [has been] filtered since May,” one Iranian Bitcoin advocate told CoinDesk. Several other Iranian crypto users told the publication that they were experiencing difficulties in trying to access cryptocurrency exchanges even with the use of VPNs (virtual private networks) and other tools that aid in getting around internet censorship.
The trend is reportedly linked to the upcoming renewal of US sanctions in August and November of this year.
Iranians Choose BTC to Store Value as Rial Shows Signs of Crashing
The censorship comes at a time when an increasing number of Iranians are relying on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for financial stability and empowerment. “Many people are using it [bitcoin] as a hedge instrument because buying BTC is easier than going into the black market to buy yourself US dollars,” CoinDesk’s Iranian source said.
Indeed, CCN published a report last week saying that Iran’s national currency, the Rial, is expected to lose 57 percent of its value by the end of this year due to hyperinflation.
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— Prof. Steve Hanke (@steve_hanke) July 2, 2018
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum have become an increasingly popular option for citizens in countries like Venezuela and Zimbabwe, whose currencies are unstable and unreliable stores of value.
Ahmad Khalid Majidyar, the director of IranObserved Project at the Middle East Institute, told CoinDesk that the Iranian president might see Bitcoin as a threat to Iran’s economy: “[President Rohani] doesn’t want Iranians to transfer foreign currency, especially dollars, outside the country.”
Majidyar believes that the intensity of the threat moves in tandem with fluctuating international relations. “[President Rohani] doesn’t want Iranians to transfer foreign currency, especially dollars, outside the country,” he said.
The Iranian government hasn’t always taken such a restrictive approach to cryptocurrency–talks about preparing the country’s economic infrastructure for the integration of cryptocurrency began as early as October 2017. In February of this year, reports emerged that Iran was considering developing its own cryptocurrency.
On May 21, Iranian news source RBC reported that Mohammed Reza Pourebrahimi, Iran’s head of Parliamentary Commission of Economic Affairs (IPCEA), said that the Central Bank was developing plans to integrate cryptocurrency into Iranian financial systems.
“[The IPCEA has already] obliged the Central Bank of Iran to start developing proposals for the use of cryptocurrency,” he said. “This is one of the good ways to bypass the use of the dollar, as well as the replacement of the SWIFT system. [Russia shares] our opinion. We said that if we manage to promote this work, then we will be the first countries that use cryptocurrency in the exchange of goods.”
Now, it seems that Iran’s attitude toward BTC is changing–we can only wait to see how shifting international relationships will affect the future of crypto in the country.