Apple Refuses to Sell Products to Iranian Americans

Writing this on my MacBook Pro, I’m quite ashamed of the recent news that Apple refused to sell an iPad to an Iranian-American girl. This Monday, WSBTV in Atlanta reported that the girl, Sahar Sabet, was in an Apple store in Georgia when an employee overheard her speaking Farsi with her uncle. The employee then asked what language they were speaking and where they were from. When Sahar told him “Farsi, I’m from Iran,” he responded, “I just can’t sell this to you. Our countries have bad relations.” Sahar said she walked out in tears. Zack Jafarzadeh, another Iranian American interviewed in the report, said that his friend was once denied an iPhone purchase when a sales representative overheard them speaking Farsi.

The Apple employees claimed that their store policy required them to enforce the provisions of the U.S.’s trade embargo against Iran. The policy prohibits exportation, sale or supply of their products from the U.S. to Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan or Syria is prohibited.

However, there is no law prohibiting Apple to sell products to U.S. residents from these countries who intend to use their products in America. So how are Apple employees, who are required to adhere to this law, supposed to play the role of an interrogator, deciding who is from where and also where they will use the product?

By racially profiling customers.

"The way that the employee seems to have arrived at this decision seems to be based on ethnic profiling," said Jamal Abdi, policy director for the National Iranian American Council.

Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, even noted that refusing to sell Apple products to Farsi speakers "would be like not selling the same items to Spanish speakers because they might be from Cuba."

Apple has not responded to the incident besides providing this general statement:

Our retail stores are proud to serve customers from around the world of every ethnicity. Our teams are multilingual, and diversity is an important part of our culture. We don't discriminate against anyone.

Abdi said these incidents highlight flaws concerning the embargo on Iran.

“Unfortunately, this is part of an escalating pattern in which increasingly broad sanctions on Iran are hitting the wrong people,” he said

Still, I’m not sure who the “right” people to hit are? After all, Iran hasn’t done anything to warrant an embargo. Despite the media’s continual failure to accurately report, there is no proof that Iran has built or intends to build nuclear weapons and they have attempted to negotiate inspections. The U.S., with its 5,000 plus nuclear weapons, however, has framed Iran as a threat in hopes of maintaining control in the Middle East, and ensuring everlasting access to oil.

And now the U.S. has Apple employees, and people nationwide, perceiving Iranian Americans as a threat as well. Oh, this country molds our minds too well.

AlterNet / By Alyssa Figueroa

Posted at June 22, 2012, 2:24pm

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