United States Prohibiting Coursera from Accepting Syrians, Sudanese, Iranian, and Cuban Students

When it’s not bombing children in the Middle East the United Stats is busy finding other ways to make the people in that region, and Cuba, suffer. It’s latest strike against people it doesn’t approve of comes in the form of restricting their access to education. Coursera is an online classroom where students from all around the world can learn all sorts of wonderful new things. Well not all around the world. The United States has prohibited Corsera from teaching students in certain countries:

Dear All, I write this email under protest and with a considerable degree of anger and sadness. Few things illustrate the bone-headedness, short-sightedness, and sheer chauvinism of the political structure of the United States better than the extent to which its ideologues are willing to go to score cheap domestic political points with narrow interests in the pursuit of a sanctions regime that has clearly run its course.

You might remember the Apple ad from a few years back, in which the company proudly announced that their machines were now so powerful that they fell under export restrictions: “For the first time in history a personal computer has been classified as a weapon by the US government …”


Well, that was a tongue in cheek quip at their Wintel competitors, but a few years after that same company decided that also an iPad apparently could now a weapon, in a rather cowardly anticipatory cow-tow to an ever expanding and aggressive sanctions regime, when they stopped selling any of their products to anyone who happened to SPEAK Persian in their stores (the company has since lifted that idiotic policy):


But you will now be interested to hear that also my course (and anything else Coursera offers) has been classified, if not a weapon that could be misused, then at least a “service” and as such must not fall into the hands of anybody happening to live in the countries that the United States government doesn’t like. I have thus been informed that my students in Cuba, Syria, Sudan and my homeland will no longer be able to access this course. I leave it to you to ponder whether this course is indeed a weapon and if so against what and what possible benefit the average American citizen could possibly derive from restricting access to it.

Be this as it may, I invite those students affected to use services such as hola.org or VPN routers to circumvent these restrictions.

Let me reiterate that I am appalled at this decision. Please note that no-one at Coursera likely had a choice in this matter!

At any rate, rest assured that these are not the values of the University of Copenhagen, of its Faculty of Law, and most assuredly not mine!

Let me end on a personal note: as a recipient of a McCloy Scholarship created to foster trans-Atlantic friendship and as someone who spent some of his most formative years in the United States, I have to admit that I am worried about the path this country is descending to. Blocking teaching (and medicine) from people whose government one doesn’t like is a fallback into the darkest hours of the last century. As my teacher at MIT, Prof. Stephen Van Evera would have told the people responsible for this: your mothers would not be proud of you today.

Your instructor,

Prof. Dr. Ebrahim Afsah
Faculty of Law
University of Copenhagen

You have to love the United States government. It does everything it possibly can to make the people of countries it doesn’t like suffer. Between sanctions that prevent sanitary and medical supplies from improving the cleanliness and health of the average person to the bombing of wedding parties the United States is working 24/7 to inflict as much pain on the average Middle Easterner and Cuban as possible. Why would it does this you may ask? I’m not entirely sure. But I assume that much of its decision is fueled by its desire to extract natural resources from the region and extraction processes are easier when there’s nobody alive to resist your efforts.

Still, this is another disgusting act by a disgusting government.

3 thoughts on “United States Prohibiting Coursera from Accepting Syrians, Sudanese, Iranian, and Cuban Students”

  1. Thankfully for the students in the effect countries there is cheap technology that will allow them to circumvent the idiotic policy.

  2. I took a Coursera course a few months ago, and some of us formed a study group that included an Iranian woman who was not allowed to take the class but wanted to learn. The policies seem to make sense to me at a high level, but as soon as I meet affected people the policy no longer seems like such a good idea. The future of developed countries will be shaped by those who struggle so it seems a disservice to our planet to deny education to any.

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