IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Summer 2013 - 67

T

he Iran Section of
IEEE was founded
in February 1970.
The first visit to Iran
by an IEEE President (Arthur Stern) took place in
1975. He wrote briefly about his
visit in The Institute [1]. The visit
was before the fall of the Shah
of Iran in early 1979, and subsequent formation of the Islamic
republic after return to Iran of
Ayatollah Khomeini.
IEEE region 8 (r8) Director
Kurt richter visited the Section
in 1991.
A second visit to Iran by an
IEEE President took place on
Feb. 20, 1999, when Ken Laker,
accompanied by r8 Director rolf
remshardt, flew to Teheran from
Frankfurt, by Iran Air. They had
been invited by Iran students at a
Student Branch Congress in Istanbul the previous year, and the visit
was approved by the Iran Section
Chair, Dr. Ghaffoori-Fard. An
intensive program of university
visits, etc. was arranged, and
reported in The Institute as "IEEE
Officers find Iranian engineering
students ready for 21st century"
[3]. In this report is the statement
"Laker agreed to an arrangement that will help make it easier
for Iranian students to enjoy
the benefits of IEEE" - giving
no hint of what was to happen
shortly after.
By then, and continuing until
IEEE ordered them to close down,
the IEEE Student Branches in
Iran were very active and successful. Their members were largely
sympathetic to and understanding of the united States, and so
by enforcing sanctions, the u.S.
was indirectly risking making
the future situation worse rather
than better.
The university of Tehran IEEE
Student Branch was the first in
the Section, approved by IEEE
HQ in April 1996, with regional
Activities Board ratification on
Feb. 14, 1997.

What Triggered the
Concerns in IEEE about Iran?

During the Period
of OFAC Influence

IEEE co-sponsored a conference
on Telecommunications (IST
2001) in Teheran, Iran, which
took place in September 2001.
IEEE in Piscataway, NJ, uSA,
agreed to handle credit card
payments of registration fees on
behalf of the conference organizers. Attempts to process these
payments via the uSA banking
system led to questions, uncertainties, and ultimately legal
advice to IEEE that what was
going on was contrary to the
OFAC sanctions, etc., and that
IEEE must stop or be at risk of
punitive and unaffordable fines.
It even led to some IEEE employees becoming afraid that they
could face jail sentences.
In November 2001, the r8
Secretary was instructed as
follows:

IEEE members in Iran were
sent a letter in 2002, informing
them of many restrictions being
imposed upon their membership,
including:

"IEEE will not have any
presence in Iran and in some
other countries. No membership either ... Please respond
to all requests negatively."
Initially, it was rather difficult
for even some senior IEEE volunteers in r8 to discover what was
happening, and why. There were

■

■
■

■

Permitted to receive only
print subscriptions to IEEE
journals.
No electronic access.
Attend IEEE conferences only
at non-member rate.
Forbidden to serve as an IEEE
volunteer or receive any member benefits such as e-mail
alias, web account, etc.

IEEE President Joel Snyder
informed the Iran Section about all
this on 14 January 2002.
Although there were already
IEEE Fellows and Senior Members
in Iran, it was soon stated that no
Iran members would in the future
be allowed to be promoted to
Fellow or Senior Member status.
The reasons given for this action
included a fear of IEEE being
heavily fined. The IEEE leadership
insisted strongly that to continue
knowingly in breach of the OFAC
regulations would mean punitive
fines for IEEE which would probably prevent IEEE's continuing

IEEE members in Iran were sent a
letter in 2002, informing them of
many restrictions being imposed
upon their membership.
rumors that it was connected with
OFAC and with ITAr [4] but no
firm information was provided.
Apparently independently of
this, many u.S. authors of papers
accepted for IST 2001 from major
u.S. companies did not arrive at
the conference, and it seems likely
that their employers were warned
by lawyers.

IEEE TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY MAGAZINE

|

SuMMEr 2013

survival. It was this point that led
directly to the closing down of
IEEE Iran Section.
In this process, the Iran Section's Student Branches were forcibly closed, despite their good
relationships with other Student
Branches and activities elsewhere
in r8 and other parts of IEEE,
having well-educated students,
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67



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