NGO calls for blacklist of Bosch after it sells 8,000 spy cameras to Iran

Reports claim Bosch sold Iran 8,000 cameras to Iran that are used to spy on women to make sure they comply with the hijab law.

 Iranian women walk on a street amid the implementation of the new hijab surveillance in Tehran, Iran, April 15, 2023. (photo credit: Majid Asgaripour/WANA/via Reuters)
Iranian women walk on a street amid the implementation of the new hijab surveillance in Tehran, Iran, April 15, 2023.
(photo credit: Majid Asgaripour/WANA/via Reuters)

The reported scandal involving the German engineering corporation Bosch’s sale of 8,000 mass surveillance cameras to the Islamic Republic of Iran sparked on Thursday a call from the US-based United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI) organization to blacklist Bosch.

”US should blacklist German manufacturer Bosch for enabling Iran’s violence against women,“ wrote UANI.

The German broadcaster ARD exposed the Iranian regime’s use of Bosch cameras to monitor Iranian women’s adherence to the Islamic nation’s compulsory hijab laws.

According to the ARD blockbuster report titled “Iran: Persecution with modern surveillance technology,” the news outlet cited a document that stated that at “Khatam University in Tehran 2017, an instruction course was organized by Bosch security and Iranian distribution partner.”

The topics of the instruction course at Khatam were “facial recognition, face detection, and intelligent tracking from objects.”

 CCTV security street camera (Illustrative) (credit: STOCKVAULT)
CCTV security street camera (Illustrative) (credit: STOCKVAULT)

The ARD’s sensational report comes at a critical time because the clerical regime has faced the most serious threat to its existence due to the “Women, Life, Freedom” movement protesting the murder of the young Iranian–Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini last year by the regime’s infamous morality police.

UANI noted that ”In December 2022, the US blacklisted Chinese video surveillance company Tiandy Technologies for its business with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. Before the designation, Senator Marco Rubio raised concerns that Tiandy’s cameras and facial recognition technologies were used to identify and target anti-regime protestors.”

“The Biden administration’s move to blacklist Tiandy set a strong precedent for how entities aiding known human rights abusers in surveillance activities should be handled, and Bosch should be no exception,” UANI continued.

Bosch also denied that an employee participated in an instruction course on the mass surveillance technology.

"Bosch is just one example within a broader disconnect between Germany’s permissive policies toward commerce with Iran and its outward commitment to human rights," said UANI. "Although Germany expresses its commitment to safeguarding ‘inviolable and inalienable’ human rights worldwide as non-negotiable, the country remains Iran’s largest European trading partner by far.

The anti-Iran regime organization UANI added that “Germany’s hypocrisy is evident in its laissez-faire approach toward holding companies like Bosch accountable when they enable Tehran’s continued violence against and repression of women. Since 2016, UANI has written seven letters to Bosch and various Bosch subsidiaries seeking clarification on Iran business.”

Bosch spokesman Dennis Christmann told The Jerusalem Post that “Bosch has not generated any sales revenue in Iran since 2019. Moreover, Bosch Building Technologies has not delivered any security cameras to Iran since that year. Between 2016 and 2018, Bosch Building Technologies supplied some 8,000 security cameras in total to distributors in Iran. These cameras are not equipped with any pre-installed software for biometric face recognition. Nor is it possible to subsequently install such software in the cameras. Moreover, Bosch has not been involved in any traffic surveillance projects in the country.”

The Bosch spokesman further claimed that “in Iran, Bosch did not sell its cameras directly to systems integrators, to public amenities and authorities, or to consumers. The cameras were distributed via dealers, who resold the products and systems to systems integrators for installation.”

Iranians protest in front of the Bosch company in Germany

In response to the report, Iranians protested outside Bosch's company building in Germany.

“If they are sanctioned, how can you sell cameras to Iran regime?”, a protestor asked in English. “That is the most important question that the people of Iran are asking.”

A second Iranian demonstrator, who spoke in Persian in front of the Bosch company, said “We will tell our children to tell also their children which countries and companies supported us and which companies supported the mullahs and this unholy system and this dictator regime.”

There have also been calls on X, formerly known as Twitter, to boycott Bosch products.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the LA-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Post that “facial recognition is weaponized by the Iranian regime against women and girls and facial recognition is being facilitated by one of Germany’s legacy companies. Shame on them. And shame on the German government for not putting an end to it. The German government can put an end to it in one second by barring export licenses.”

“Where are the voices of the political parties and the NGOs who speak up first and foremost for the rights of women?” asked Cooper

He said that the Bosch technology will damage the “Women, Life, Freedom” movement, adding “How many more people will end up in prison tortured and raped by virtue of this technology?”

When asked if Bosch failed to internalize the lessons of its company role in using slave labor during the Holocaust, Christmann said that "Bosch is upfront about its past. Especially as concerns its actions during the Nazi era, the company has critically scrutinized its history. For example, Bosch was one of the founding members of a foundation set up to compensate former forced laborers.”

Christmann continued, “It also commissioned two independent authors (J. Bähr and P. Erker) with an academic study of its history. In their work ‘Bosch – History of a Global Enterprise,’ Bähr and Erker show that, while Bosch played a role in armaments production and forced labor, it also supported the liberal resistance to Adolf Hitler and endeavored to protect Jewish associates from persecution by the Nazis.”

ARD also reported that the Danish security company Milestone Systems provided video analysis software to Iran’s regime that can be used with the Bosch surveillance technology.

Iranians across the globe expressed outrage over Bosch’s delivery of the security cameras to Iran’s rulers. The Iranian-American human rights activist Lawdan Bazargan told the Post that “Regrettably, Germany has a long-standing history of supporting the Islamic regime of Iran at the expense of the Iranian people, human rights, and democratic values.”

Bazargan, who oversees the organization Alliance Against Islamic Regime of Iran Apologists (AAIRIA), cited the example of the then-German-Finnish joint company Siemens-Nokia sale of surveillance technology to Iran’s state-owned telephone company that was used to persecute protestors during the Green movement mass demonstrations against the regime in 2009.

The Post was the first English-language outlet to report on the Siemens-Nokia deal in 2008—a year before the eruption of the Green movement that challenged the fraudulent re-election of then-Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.