Blockchain Authoritarianism: The Regime In Iran Goes Crypto

August 16, 2018 / by Cathy Zollo

Iran has taken the next step toward thumbing its nose at international sanctions. The repressive regime is in the early stages of creating its own cryptocurrency.

Unlike in other countries where governments don’t seem in any rush to foster crypto adoption and there is no threat of looming international sanctions, Iran’s central bank is helping facilitate the move to crypto.

We haven’t seen that in other parts of the world. Quite the contrary. India’s reserve bank in April banned the country’s banks from providing services to crypto companies. As an aside, this didn’t work. Citizens found a workaround with local Bitcoin buying and selling as well as the buying of stable coins like Tether that are backed and tradable one for one with the U.S. dollar.

But Iran’s central bank is actually helping facilitate the move to crypto. That’s because the U.S. with its sanctions has incentivized the move like nothing else could.

Countries taking this drastic step usually have two goals in mind. One is to circumvent international sanctions and the other is to stem the bleeding of capital from the country.

We saw this happening in Turkey last week when the value of the lira began dropping precipitously on news of U.S. tariffs on aluminum and steel. Turkish President Recep Erdoğan strongly urged the country’s citizens to bolster the lira by selling foreign currency they held for lira. In response Turkey’s largest exchange reported a more than 60 percent increase in Bitcoin trading volume, while other exchanges also reported significant increases in volume as well.

Perhaps the road to adoption, at least in some instances, is circuitous and likely to involve some not so great actors on the world stage. That’s because what makes Bitcoin and cryptocurrency attractive is evident to anyone paying attention.