Iranian shoemaker bypasses sanctions with Bitcoin
Persian Shoes, a company that has been making handmade footwear for more than 70 years, set up an online shop recently that only accepts Bitcoin.
Located in Isfahan, a city of 1.5 million people in central Iran, the company is happy to serve customers anywhere, but international trade sanctions against the country prevent the shop from receiving most forms of foreign payments.
However, Bitcoin, as an unregulated digital currency that can be easily transferred, allows the shop to circumvent those restrictions.
Previously, the only way owners could be paid was cash in hand due to sanctions by the UN, the United States, the EU and others. Wire transfers and payments via major credit card companies are impossible for Iranian businesses. Bitcoin immediately allowed Persian Shoes to target international customers. CEO Mor Roghani said the company sold four pairs of shoes its first day online.
Persian Shoes is a family business, currently run by three brothers who inherited the company from their father. A cousin of Roghani, an Australian resident, introduced him to the digital currency and was instrumental in setting up the ecommerce site. International customers can buy leather bags, women’s shoes and men’s shoes, with prices for handmade goods started around $80.
The owners of Persian Shoes face further difficulties in doing international business, though. First, exchanging Bitcoins for Iranian Rials is tricky, as digital currencies aren’t well known in the country. Roghani suggested he and his brothers might simply hang onto their Bitcoins for a while.
Furthermore, some countries — such as the United States — forbid their citizens from trading at all with businesses or individuals in Iran. Persian Shoes has confirmed, though, that a handful of orders to the US went through without any trouble.
The EU, on the other hand, is a major trading partner with Iran, but financial sanctions limit commerce. In 2012, the Council of the European Union removed Iranian banks from the SWIFT electronic banking network. In November, the EU restored certain sanctions that had been imposed on a number of Iranian banks and businesses but previously overturned in court.