Free Software NOT as in `free speech,` NOR as in `free beer`
On 13th Jul 2021, I’ve been removed from Fedora Project with no prior notice because of this:
I don’t have any access to my Email ([email protected]) and my other FP resources (e.g., Fedora Ambassadors, Fedora People space, Git repo, etc.). My account was completely removed from Ask Fedora (I was an admin). All my posts in Ask Fedora (including the Welcome page for the Farsi section) were removed, and…
My purpose of writing this post is not to describe my situation in a personal matter. This offensive deletion was not the only case; for example, some time ago, GitLab deleted the profiles of numerous Iranians (GitLab blocked Iranians’ access) and blocked Iran’s IP range. It is still not possible to access GitLab from Iran. Before GitLab, This was done by GitHub (although the problem has now been fixed).
As for GitHub, we said to ourselves, “yeah, This was expected from the new owner of GitHub (Microsoft).” But my problem today is not about big proprietary commercial corporations. I am talking about free and open source projects that are increasingly restricting Iranian users’ access, and in the most ridiculous case, they are blocking all Iranian IPs! which, as far as I know, is not mandatory. US law does not force companies to block IPs but only prohibits them from providing services and trading with Iran, which goes back to politics, but my current argument is not commercial or political.
My argument is about access to the gratis part of the free (Libre) and open-source world. Something that does not require any financial transactions, the part that is gratis and publicly accessible.
The Fedora project was just a topic to start the discussion. The removal and blocking of Iranian users and IPs is not a new topic; it’s been there for many years, but the pressure is increasing in recent years. It does not matter if you are a user, contributor, or administrator; you will be blocked or removed in any case.
As a DevOps engineer, I receive 403 Error over and over again every day! Even though I use VPN and proxy, some services still block my access because they are able to detect proxy and tunnel usage (e.g., Docker Hub).
They recognize that I am from Iran and prevent me from accessing free software and free knowledge and resources!
Through Iran’s IP range, you cannot even clone a simple project from GitLab or pull the Nginx image from Docker Hub, Google Container Registry, or Quay. Through Iran’s IP range, you cannot access the countless websites that are hosted on Google Cloud or AWS! Or get a library/dependency for your Java, GoLang, Ruby, etc., application.
Let me give you more examples:
All the examples below have blocked Iran’s IP range, and you do not have access to their free contents from Iran. (Of course, some of these items are not Free/open-source, but because they host FLOSS platforms/projects, they are included)
Note: These are not all cases. These are the only cases I have dealt with and been informed of.
- Everything in/behind in GCP
- Everything in/behind in AWS
- Some websites behind Cloudflare
- Redis and Redis Labs
- Docker Hub
In the end, I do not expect much to be done in this regard. My expectation or goal is not the lifting of sanctions. These are politics, and my argument is not political. I do not expect business dealings with companies to sell or buy something. I’m just talking about access to Free (Libre) and gratis knowledge and software!
The US government’s reason for these blockades (in which there is no trade) is that, firstly, it considers source code a commercial good and therefore applies trade laws (like EAR) to it (something that does not exist in many countries). Secondly, their excuse is that this action prevents the Iran government from accessing the source codes and prevents the Iran government from using them for military purposes! Isn’t that ridiculous?
People like me and all 80 million people in a country are denied access to free knowledge because the United States wants to block the Iran government from accessing them.
Do you think it is a problem for governments to use an external server or external office (in another country) for their work? A government that workarounds the banking and financial sanctions indeed can bypass network layers, protocols, and firewalls.
It is quite clear that the only victims of this decision are people like me, the ordinary people, not the Iran government.
Every Free and/or Open Source Software based/located/maintained/served/related to the USA and its companions IS NOT a Free Software, since there’s no freedom of use, access, and study, at least for 80 Millions of individuals.
Update 1 (3 Sep 2021)
Let me know what you think of this article on twitter @haghighi_ahmad or leave a comment below!