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Georgia Apple Store Refuses To Sell iPad To Iranian-American Teen 1116

Posted by timothy
from the cultural-profiling dept.
pdclarry writes "An Iranian-American teenager was told by an Apple store employee that they could not sell her an iPad because it would violate U.S. trade restrictions. She returned to the store with a camera crew from a local TV station and was again turned down. Apparently an Apple employee heard her speaking Farsi. As he was also of Iranian extraction he recognized the language and used this as a basis for refusal."
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Georgia Apple Store Refuses To Sell iPad To Iranian-American Teen

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 24, 2012 @05:24PM (#40431981)
    Homosexuality is illegal in Iran, so it should be illegal for Iranians to buy iPads.
    • Re:Poetic Justice (Score:5, Informative)

      by BitterOak (537666) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @05:47PM (#40432211)

      Homosexuality is illegal in Iran, so it should be illegal for Iranians to buy iPads.

      No. It has nothing to do with homosexuality. It is a trade restriction based on the fact that Iran is allegedly developing nuclear weapons, and has also funded certain groups labeled as terrorist organizations. Technology found in products like iPads could be used for military or terrorist purposes, and that is the reason for these trade restrictions. This is not a surprising story: as someone who has worked in technology sales before, I know there are very serious regulations (with very severe penalties if not followed) involving sales of technology (even personal computers) to countries on these trade restriction lists. The store employee had no choice: he was obeying the law.

      • Re:Poetic Justice (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 24, 2012 @05:58PM (#40432319)

        He broke no law. He was an American citizen, and trade with American citizens is not banned.

      • Re:Poetic Justice (Score:5, Insightful)

        by haruchai (17472) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @06:06PM (#40432383)

        Even if the basis for the law is sound, it's still stupid ( and I'm not picking on Apple).
        These devices are widely available all over the world and I don't think proof of citizenship has ever been required to purchase one.

      • Re:Poetic Justice (Score:5, Insightful)

        by arth1 (260657) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @06:33PM (#40432669) Homepage Journal

        Technology found in products like iPads could be used for military or terrorist purposes

        "Could" is not probable cause or even reasonable suspicion. Seawater can be used for military or terrorist purposes too, and so can air.
        And you don't need a computer to build an atom bomb - at least three countries did it with nothing more advanced than a slide rule.

        As for an iPad, you have to be a die-hard fanboy not to realize that it's way less powerful than a PC costing the same.

        But most of all, Apple is here going beyond their mandate. They should not sell to Iran, but they have no business deciding that a US citizen with Iranian ancestry should not buy an iDevice. No matter whether they think it's later going to be sent to Iran. If they have suspicion that a crime is about to be committed, they should contact the authorities. They are not deputized nor judges.

        • Re:Poetic Justice (Score:4, Insightful)

          by lgw (121541) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @09:36PM (#40434165) Journal

          "Could" is not probable cause or even reasonable suspicion. Seawater can be used for military or terrorist purposes too, and so can air.
          And you don't need a computer to build an atom bomb - at least three countries did it with nothing more advanced than a slide rule.

          You've got the wrong end of this. The clerk has no burden of proof at all here.

          But none of that matters legally! It's quite similar to selling alcholol to a minor. It's totally on the clerk not to sell any drink on the forbidden list no matter how silly the list is and it's entirely the clerk's fault if for any reason they fail to spot that the buyer is a minor. If the clerk has even the slightest suspicion the buyer is under 21, he's going to insist on proof that the buyer is legal and refuse sale without it. That's how the law works!

          Seling items on the prohibited-for-export is the same deal. If the clerk has even the slightest suspicion the buyer might be making a "straw purchase" for an Iranian destination, he's completely doing the right thing by refusing the sale - the punishments are far worse in that case than selling alcohol to a minor!

      • Re:Poetic Justice (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Bert64 (520050) <bertNO@SPAMslashdot.firenzee.com> on Sunday June 24, 2012 @07:16PM (#40433155) Homepage

        Such restrictions are utterly stupid...

        For one thing many countries have at one point or another funded groups which were considered terrorists...
        Also the US developed nuclear weapons too, it's a double standard to punish iran for trying to do so. The US is also the only country to have actually USED nuclear weapons.

        And these restrictions only hurt the less affluent/powerful civilians of such countries. The powerful in Iran will simply continue buying whatever technology they want either from the black market, or from countries that don't have any such restrictions.

        Meanwhile they hurt legitimate businesses in countries which do enforce the restrictions, as they lose potential business to black market businesses and less restrictive countries.

    • Re:Poetic Justice (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cffrost (885375) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @05:55PM (#40432287) Homepage

      The discrimination victim in this story is a citizen of the United States.

      Why should foreign laws affect how US citizens are treated within US borders?

      • Re:Poetic Justice (Score:5, Informative)

        by Mitsoid (837831) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @06:26PM (#40432599)

        She said she was buying it to send it as a gift to someone in Iran...

        It is against the law (and apple corporate policy) to do so....

        Seems like a non-story... She was a US citizen trying to break US law.. and she informed someone of this intent, and was denied the sale...

        If she wants to break the law she should probably just lie about what she's going to do with it... Would be against the law but this story is not really news-worthy

      • Re:Poetic Justice (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Genda (560240) <{mariet} {at} {got.net}> on Sunday June 24, 2012 @06:44PM (#40432801) Journal

        Because we've made the Iranians the "Evil Brown People Du Jour" and therefore if you speak or even understand Farsi, own a Persian rug, or say "IRAN the half marathon in under and hour..." everyone and his third cousin is supposed to shun you as a potential terrorist... Booga, booga!!!!

        Don't get me wrong, I appreciated the strict limitations of selling technology goods to foreign nationals on the "No Sale" list. This is no excuse for picking people out of a crowd and treating them like criminals, simply because they know a "forbidden" language. I just read a story by a well known journalist who just finished traveling throughout the middle east, and his take on Iran was fascinating. The people there hate their government and the young people are on the verge of major social unrest. They have radios, and satellite TV, and video games. The kids play friggin video games where they get to be American soldiers attacking their own army. Tell me that isn't a sign that Iran isn't going to transform sooner or later. The Ayatollah Khomeini set the age of marriage for girls at 8 years old... you heard me right, four plus friggin four, two less then ten! The logic was that only by marrying a girl off before puberty could you be certain to prevent her from having sex before marriage. Of course this also meant the girl would never get any kind of education, and that she would certainly know her place as a SLAVE to her husband before she reached the age of 10 and for the rest of her life. You think the educated and professional women of Iran who lead self determined lives during the Shah, took that declaration with a grin? They are tired of partying like its 1399. We don't have to worry about Iran, Iran will fix itself, the religious zealotry of the last 30 years has proven to be devastating to the people of Iran, and the only thing that would cause it to persist is if we stuck our big fat noses into their business and caused the general population to line up behind their mullahs. Right now everyone in Iran under 30 wants to be an American. In 10 years, Iran could be our biggest ally in the MiddleEast, seeing as Pakistan, Egypt, and Turkey are in the midst of serious religious ugliness and antiAmerican sentiment in those countries is running high.

        Give the girl her iPad for the love-o-Jebus, if she orders a top of the line Cray, okay, then by all means surveil her ass. Please believe me when I say, nobody is cobbling atomic bombs (or even IEDs) together out of iPads... and if they want that kind of technology, you think the Chinese and Russians wouldn't sell it to them in half a femtosecond? Its all political posturing and international diplomatic hoohah, and the rest of the world knows it.

        If you're going to be a hard-ass about selling the girl an iPad, tell her why and explain to her to "Please have your Father come in with proof of your citizenship." Explain, "Its because we're trying to prevent another 9/11 and even though its a pain in the ass for everyone including the nice clerk who really wants to sell you an iPad, we all make small sacrifice during times of war for National Security." Polite, compassionate and with a solution that let's everyone know where they stand.

        Instead we get a tempest in a teapot and journalists who'll blow it up into a civil rights fiasco. Jeez I hate slow news days.

        • Re:Poetic Justice (Score:4, Insightful)

          by cffrost (885375) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @07:00PM (#40432969) Homepage

          If you're going to be a hard-ass about selling the girl an iPad, tell her why and explain to her to "Please have your Father come in with proof of your citizenship." Explain, "Its because we're trying to prevent another 9/11 and even though its a pain in the ass for everyone including the nice clerk who really wants to sell you an iPad, we all make small sacrifice during times of war for National Security." Polite, compassionate and with a solution that let's everyone know where they stand.

          That's polite compassion? It sounds like the sort of patronizing, propagandist bullshit I'd expect from a DHS official.

      • by realityimpaired (1668397) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @07:02PM (#40432993)

        The discrimination victim in this story is a citizen of the United States.

        US trade laws explicitly prohibit selling electronic or cryptographic technology that will make its way to Iran. It also blocks Cuba, Syria and Sudan for these kinds of technology sales (and until quite recently, blocked North Korea, too). There's a reason that Dell and HP have in their scripting, if you buy it over the phone or as a clickthrough on the website, a statement that you will not knowingly trade the equipment you're buying with an embargoed country... they're on the hook for megabucks in fines and penalties if they get caught selling to an embargoed country.

        Apparently she said that she was buying it for her uncle in Iran. US Citizen or no, she was still buying a restricted piece of technology with the intent to ship it to an embargoed country.

  • TSA as role model? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rbrausse (1319883) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @05:25PM (#40431987)

    An Arabic name is bad news at US airports, speaking Farsi is bad news in Apple stores?

    The angst-driven post 9/11 world is a shame :/

    • by O('_')O_Bush (1162487) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @05:34PM (#40432087)
      " Sabet is a U.S. citizen and a student at the University of Georgia but the iPad was to be a gift for a cousin living in Iran."

      Sounds less like angst, and more like the Apple employee was doing what they should have done. Apple would be liable if they knowingly sold a iPad to someone about to break the export restrictions.
      • by yincrash (854885)
        So what you're quoting is from the WSB article, however I could not find anything that said that the clerk overheard that it was for a cousin in Iran. Just that they heard Farsi.
        Why not just have in the purchase agreement a clause stating that the product is not allowed to be exported to those countries. Wouldn't that disclaim responsibility (in situations that are ambiguous) for Apple without having to ask their ethnicity?
    • by readin (838620) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @06:02PM (#40432345)
      Typical case of a headline deliberately leaving out critical information to make something sound bad. TFAs contain two very useful pieces of information.

      1. The US citizen attempting to buy the export controlled product said "I'm from Iran". It is perfectly reasonable to assume someone who speaks Farsi and says their "from Iran" is in fact Iranian, especially when mistakenly assuming the other way could get you in a lot of legal trouble. The article makes no mention of the customer specially saying "I'm an American" or "I'm a US citizen". Even "I'm originally from Iran" would have been clarifying.

      2.

      Jafarzadeh said he was helping a friend buy an iPhone. That friend was from Iran, living and studying in the Atlanta area on a visa.
      "We never talked about him going back to Iran or anything like that. He was just speaking full-fledged Farsi and the representative came back and denied our sale," Jafarzadeh said.

      It doesn't matter whether the friend was going back to Iran. Since the friend is Iranian (A US citizen wouldn't be "in the Atlanta area on a visa"), giving or selling the friend export-controlled technology would be a problem.

    • I studied international business, the professor (who only teaches part time, works full time for the ITC) he told us some interesting stories.
      A local businessman who sold farm supplies called the ITC, because there was someone from Iran who wanted to buy a million dollar combine. He called the ITC to make sure he could sell this. They told him no, then the he called again, asking if it would be ok if someone else bought it and shipped it to Iran, the ITC said he still couldn't sell it because he knows tha

  • by nanoflower (1077145) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @05:30PM (#40432039)

    Sounds like the sales person is a bit confused about the regulations. I'm surprised they didn't call over a manager especially when a film crew showed up, or maybe they did after reading the article. It looks like all involved are a bit confused about the regulations.

    There was absolutely nothing preventing them from selling the Ipad to the teen since they were in America and said nothing (according to them) about sending it overseas. Now, it would be illegal for the teen to send the Ipad back to Iran, but that would be the responsibility of the teen and not the Apple store. It sounds like the manager and employees have carried the restrictions on shipping certain products to countries like Iran a bit too far as it isn't meant to prevent them from selling those products to people from Iran living in this country.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Wrong. If the Apple store had any information that the teen intended to send the product to Iran they would indeed be held responsible under ITAR restrictions. In BATF terms it's a straw buy.

    • by gnasher719 (869701) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @05:49PM (#40432223)

      There was absolutely nothing preventing them from selling the Ipad to the teen since they were in America and said nothing (according to them) about sending it overseas.

      And that is exactly the opposite of what the store employee claims. He claims that he understands Farsi and the woman said, in Farsi, that she would send the iPad to a relative in Iran. And at that point selling the iPad to her would indeed be breaking the law - helping someone to export goods from the USA to the Iran carries a penalty of up to 20 years in jail.

  • by cfalcon (779563) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @05:31PM (#40432049)

    It's not racism. It's either an employee correctly refusing to violate a (imo silly if it applies to consumer electronics) law, or the same employee INCORRECTLY doing same (pretty damned sure it's the second- the article implies that). Either way, it's clear that the employee's stated reason is not based on race.

    Also unlike the summary states, she told the employee that it was a gift for her cousin, who is an Iranian citizen. It wasn't just "because she was speaking Farsi".

    And no, I'm no Applepologist. But this doesn't look like it is the story that is being presented.

  • by lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Sunday June 24, 2012 @05:32PM (#40432057) Homepage

    question. is this iranian apple employee also prevented and prohibited from purchasing apple products?

  • Wait wait wait (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gman003 (1693318) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @05:32PM (#40432059)

    "Apparently an Apple employee heard her speaking Farsi. As he was also of Iranian extraction he recognized the language and used this as a basis for refusal."

    So this isn't just another case of "racist white guy does something stupid to someone just because they're Middle Eastern*", this is "racist Middle Eastern guy does something stupid to someone just because they're Middle Eastern"

    That's... wow. I was not prepared for this level of stupid today.

    * Is is really correct to consider Iran "Middle Eastern"? I know they're ethnically and linguistically distinct from the Arabs, and also have a significant religious difference. But geographically (and geo-politically, at least from an American view), you could definitely argue that they are.

  • Obviously (Score:4, Informative)

    by Hentes (2461350) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @05:32PM (#40432069)

    As Apple's devices are locked and the company isn't allowed to deal with Iranian carriers, her cousin couldn't use the device even if they sold it to her.

  • by KrayzieKyd (906704) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @05:33PM (#40432079)
    1. This is old 2. This has nothing to do with race, ethnicity, or 9/11 3. This has nothing to do with Apple 4. This has to do with the US embargo on Iran, which includes selling goods to anyone in the US that could take them back to Iran. This is law. This is not Apple acting out of nowhere. It's in their legal terms that states they follow US embargo laws. If you don't like them, tell your congressman to change US embargo law or to lift the embargo against Iran. Good luck with that.
  • WTF is this shit? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 24, 2012 @06:07PM (#40432401)

    She identified herself as being from Iran.

    "When we said 'Farsi, I'm from Iran,' he said, 'I just can't sell this to you. Our countries have bad relations,'" Sabet said.

    And then there's the part about it being a gift for a relative living in Iran.

    Talk about manufactured outrage. If y'all are going to be mad at someone, be mad at the US government for banning exports to Iran. What else was the sales drone supposed to do when confronted with someone identifying as a person from a country that is not allowed to have the product he's selling?

    Being an Iranian who jumped through all the hoops to become a US citizen, there's no way she can be unaware of the export restrictions faced by Iran and Iranians. She knew exactly what would happen when she identified herself as being from Iran to a fellow Iranian selling a product containing technology subject to export controls. I hope she feels good about what she's done to that clerk.

  • this is political grandstanding between two iranian americans

    it has nothing to do with US policy, or apple

    don't let that stop a bunch of hobby intarwebs armchair analysts to use the contrived bullshit "event" to engage in holier than thou sophistry

  • by bitt3n (941736) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @06:17PM (#40432497)
    "Our nuclear program has come to ruin, as the triggering mechanism was unobtainable. Operation Angriest Bird has failed!"
  • by rueger (210566) * on Sunday June 24, 2012 @06:21PM (#40432547) Homepage
    Wow. Between the Apple employees, the fanboys, the "gotta stop terrurists" bunch, and the armchair lawyers my head in spinning madly.

    I sincerely doubt that an $11.00 an hour clerk at an Apple store has the knowledge and judgement to interpret and apply complex trade sanctions.

    I also get the distinct impression that too many of you folks see Iranians as a some kind of homogeneous group - especially ex-pat Iranians. There are a lot of Iranians in North America who hate the current regime with a seething passion, and who would see anyone intending to return to Iran as a supporter of that regime. I'd bet the clerk falls into that group.

    Finally let's get real here - There's not likely to be much in an iPad that would represent a big jump on whatever technology Iran is using already. Besides, as has been pointed out, there are likely a hundred other ways that the Iranians would get their hands on Apple products. Like, say, buy them in China?
  • by Elixon (832904) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @08:06PM (#40433585) Homepage Journal

    I don't get it. Which part of the sensitive technology iPad contains you deny to Iranians in Apple Stores that they cannot get from communist China where the iPad is manufactured?

    This whole "sensitive technology" banning in common consumer market... that just makes common Iranians feel bad because they are Iranians, nothing else.

    Would you be able to claim victory with all that Windows-based state-sponsored spyware Stuxnet and Flame if it were not for commercial companies (Siemens) breaking your funny rules and installing export-regulated Windows directly into nuclear facilities? ( www.microsoft.com/exporting/faq.htm ) Did you notice, that nobody says a word against Siemens ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuxnet [wikipedia.org] ) but some common no-name Iranian (slash American)... Big money different rules?

  • by assertation (1255714) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @10:54PM (#40434651)

    Like most Americans I probably have some knee jerk prejudice against Iranians. No doubt some of that is from our media.

    Regardless, I've gotten to know a few Iranians through work over the years. The wamest, most intelligent people I have ever met.

    Please do not confuse the Iranian government and their noise for who Iranians are.

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