Why I believe “Coursera, blocking access from sanctioned countries” is bad? Really bad!

Today my country’s name was on home page of Hacker News. Wow! It feels great to see your country’s being mentioned. For a country that even on many websites’ forms it is not even listed to choose as your country. Has it ever happened to you to fill a form and choose your country as “Other…” in a list of over a 180 countries? It’s really painful, you feel like are not even being seen.

But today, “Iran” was on home page of Hacker news. It felt good on the first sight. But only on the first sight. It was the news that Coursera is blocking access for students from Iran, Cuba, Sudan and Syria. [link]

This is what they mention as the main reason:

Certain aspects of Coursera’s course offerings are considered services and are therefore subject to restrictions in sanctioned countries

I understand that is the US law and they want to be safe. But I always had the impression that Coursera has a very ambitious goal in its heart: “Best courses, for free, for everyone!”. Well the later is not applicable anymore. It won’t be for “everyone”.

I don’t support the Iranian government and their behaviours which are causing all these sanctions, but a sanction like this is terrible. Who is paying the price for such a sanction? Isn’t the purpose of all these sanctions to prevent the government from continuing their nuclear program? I think on the contrary, this one works completely in their favour:

Sanction on Education!

What could be possibly worse than this?

Sanction on food? It is very harsh, the poor would starve, but it’s possible to work around it.

Sanction on medication? Yes it is terrible and people are struggling with it by paying with their lives. But even that is not as horrible as “Sanction on Education”.

I believe if something is going to change in Iran, it will be through education, through a very slow process of an ancient nation educating itself to take better care of itself. To grow. To live and to live freely. To learn the democracy.

In a society which all the education is controlled by government, this will never happen. Government’s golden age relies on ignorance of people. They censor the books and the movies. They filter the internet. They decide what you can or can not read, watch or even think.
In such situation having access to education without any burden and with no charge, is like finding the Treasure box. Or maybe even more valuable.

One may think, what Coursera was offering couldn’t lead to any of these. I should oppose you.

If i learn about “Drugs and Brain”, I would never go close to the drugs, and will educate my acquaintances about it as well.
If I attend a course on “World music”, I might have few words to say, which could be interesting for some.
If i will be more informed about “How to change the world”, I might really do something that does.
and if I learn more about “Global Sustainable Energy”, I may eventually realize that my country doesn’t need nuclear energy, there are plenty of other resources.

Those are the baby steps that takes for change. Indeed, it is slow. But that’s the only way. No revolution has ever worked for the benefit of the revolutionaries. Change will never happen over night.

If there is a way to the future for Iran, it is through education, period.

And today Coursera just blocked access for Students in Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria.

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