Nokia in Crosshairs of Iran Opposition

5103690Iranian opposition supporters are focusing their post-election frustration at more than just the government. The reformist movement is the driving force behind a boycott of wireless phone maker Nokia that has sent demand for the company's handsets down nearly 50 percent in Tehran, according to a Guardian report Wednesday.

The issue: Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) sale of communications monitoring systems to the Iranian government – systems that have helped the regime crack down on dissenters.

The boycott may be spreading as well, according to the Guardian, which reports protesters are "shunning SMS messaging in protest at the perceived complicity with the regime by the state telecoms company, TCI."

The report cites Tehran shopkeepers who have removed Nokia products from window displays for fear of alienating customers. The Guardian also has comments from protesters recently released from imprisonment indicating their phone records were used against them by authorities.

One unnamed journalist said:

"I always had this impression that monitoring calls is just a rumour for threatening us from continuing our job properly, but the nightmare became real when they had my phone calls – conversations in my case.

"And the most unbelievable thing for me is that Nokia sold this system to our government. It would be a reasonable excuse for Nokia if they had sold the monitoring technology to a democratic country for controlling child abuse or other uses, but selling it to the Iranian government with a very clear background of human rights violence and suppression of dissent, it's just inexcusable for me.

A Nokia spokesperson declined to comment on dropping sales in Tehran, but NSN spokesman Ben Roome said: "As in every other country, telecoms networks in Iran require the capability to lawfully intercept voice calls. In the last two years, the number of mobile subscribers in Iran has grown from 12 million to over 53 million, so to expand the network in the second half of 2008 we were required to provide the facility to intercept voice calls on this network."

The Guardian also reports that advertisers are fleeing Iran's state-controlled TV and there are reports that people are transferring deposits from state-run banks to privately controlled ones.