Grant program aims to overthrow Iran’s Islamic Republic with crypto

“Iran Unchained” launched a new version of its grant platform to make donations to activists easier

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“Iran Unchained” released a streamlined version of its platform, built for sending crypto to anti-government activists in Iran where compliance laws make donations difficult.  

The NGO’s “V2” site is a fork of crypto fundraising platform Gitcoin that lets donors outside the US sidestep fundraising limits and send money directly to activists’ wallets. The site’s founder is trying to keep the funds obscured from Iran’s Islamic Republic while also proving to the US Treasury that its crypto donations aren’t funding illicit causes.

Iran Unchained was started in January 2023, a few months after a young woman’s death in police custody sparked protests against Iran’s Islamic Republic. The NGO organizes requests for grants from Iranians with the overarching goal of overthrowing the Islamic Republic and installing a secular government in its place. 

Soleimani’s fundraising platform combats what he calls “overcompliance” in the fiat realm, where banks and funding platforms shut down compliant donations to Iran to avoid liability altogether in dealing with the OFAC-sanctioned state. An anti-censorship group called Free Internet for Iran was yanked from GoFundMe for opaque reasons before turning to Iran Unchained, Soleimani said.

Read more: Maui wildfire recovery gets the spotlight thanks to charitable NFT collection

The NGO still has to follow compliance laws itself though. Iran Unchained is registered as a nonprofit in Wyoming and files quarterly OFAC reports giving assurance it’s on the right side of sanctions laws.

“The logistical challenge for Iran Unchained is how to send money securely to grantees and beneficiaries inside of Iran while protecting them from the Islamic Republic and while providing enough documentation to the United States Treasury to convince them that we’re not sending money to terrorists,” Soleimani said. 

Funds have gone towards internet provision, humanitarian aid, NFTs from Iranian artists and sending Iranian developers to Ethereum conferences. 

Iran Unchained grants are voted on by a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) made up of Iranian friends of Soleimani. Grants that pass governance are listed on the NGO’s homepage alongside crypto wallet addresses where donors can send funds directly. 

Cross-border aid is a popular use case for crypto. Ether poured into Ukraine’s crypto wallet following Russia’s 2022 invasion, and Crypto Aid Israel raised $185,000 in a little over a week following attacks on Oct. 7.

Updated Dec. 6, 2022 at 2:20 pm ET: Updated headline for clarity.


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