GitHub is allowed by the US government to offer services in Iran by exception

Developer platform GitHub is fully accessible to users in Iran again. In exceptional cases, the platform has received permission from the US Treasury Department to offer its services to developers, despite sanctions against Iran.

GitHub CEO Nat Friedman tells this in a blog post. Due to US sanctions, GitHub, part of Microsoft, had to block access to all developers in Iran and some other regions in 2019. Under the sanctions, US companies are not allowed to do business with companies and individuals in Iran. This affected not only Iranian developers, but also GitHub users from other countries who wanted to use their account in Iran.

For developers in the affected regions, the sanctions mean that they have limited access to GitHub and can only use free public GitHub services, such as open source projects and associated public pages, gists and free ‘action minutes’ for personal communication, but not personal repositories . Paid accounts in the affected countries have been downgraded to read-only repositories.

Using GitHub from Iran delivered German Pure Labs in December another ban on. An employee opened his laptop while visiting his parents in Iran while logged in to GitHub. As a result, the Pure Lab account on GitHub was blocked. According to The Register, GitHub did this to adhere to its sanctions policy.

Friedman writes that after the sanctions came into effect in 2019, the company immediately took action to challenge them. “First of all, we made every effort to make as much of GitHub as possible available to as many developers as possible while complying with sanctions. In addition, we immediately went to the Office of Foreign Assets Control to advocate for broad and open access to GitHub in the affected countries. That was a long and intensive process.” The Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC for short, is part of the Ministry of Finance and charged with implementing the sanctions.

According to Friedman, GitHub is given the exception because it has convinced OFAC that developers use GitHub to “promote human progress and international communication” and because GitHub contributes to US foreign policy for “promoting free speech and the free flow of information’. Other American Git platforms, such as GitLab, SourceForge and Bitbucket, are still subject to the sanctions.

The exception given to GitHub for Iran basically means that all public and personal services in Iran are available to all developers, i.e. paid and free services. Still, not everyone in Iran can use GitHub. Specially designated individuals, parties blocked by other US law, and certain government employees will still not be able to use and access GitHub.

GitHub is still unavailable or restricted in other regions subject to US sanctions. These are Crimea, Cuba, North Korea, Sudan and Syria. According to CEO Friedman, GitHub is also in talks with the US government to get an exception for developers in Syria and Crimea.