DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The internet was almost completely blacked out Wednesday amid mass protests against the government over the death of a woman detained by Iranians for allegedly violating the country’s strictly enforced dress code by the country’s morality police.
An Iranian official had previously hinted that such measures could be taken for security reasons. Losing connectivity will make it harder for people to organize protests and share information about the government’s crackdown on dissent.
Iran witnessed nationwide protests Regarding the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Ami, who was detained for allegedly wearing the obligatory Islamic hijab too open. While the President of Iran, Ibrahim Raisi, was speaking at the UN General Assembly, demonstrators clashed with the police and called for the downfall of the Islamic Republic itself. on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, protests continued for the fifth day, including in the capital Tehran. According to the semi-official Fars news agency, police there used tear gas against protesters chanting “death to the dictator” and “I will kill whoever killed my sister”.
London-based rights group Amnesty International said security forces used batons, birds, tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters. He said eight people died in the riots, including four killed by security forces. It is reported that hundreds more people were injured.
Iranian officials reported three deaths and blamed them on unnamed militant groups.
Witnesses in Iran, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said they were unable to access the Internet using mobile devices on Wednesday evening.
“We have been seeing internet service in Iran blocked for the past several hours, including mobile data,” Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at network intelligence firm Kentik, Inc., said Wednesday.
“This is probably a move by the government considering the current situation in the country,” he said. “I can confirm that internet connectivity for mobile providers in Iran has been completely destroyed.”
NetBlocks, a London-based group that monitors Internet access, previously reported widespread outages on both Instagram and WhatsApp.
Facebook’s parent company Meta, which owns both platforms, said it was aware that Iranians were being denied access to internet services. “We hope their online rights will be restored soon,” he said.
On Wednesday, Iran’s Telecommunications Minister Isa Zarepour was quoted by state media as saying that some restrictions may be imposed “due to security concerns.”
Iran already blocks Facebook, Telegram, Twitter and YouTube, although senior Iranian officials use public accounts on such platforms. Many Iranians circumvent the ban by using virtual private networks known as VPNs and proxies.
In a separate development, several official websites, including those of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the presidency and the Central Bank, were taken down, at least temporarily, after hackers claimed to have launched a cyber attack on government institutions.
Hackers associated with the shadow “Anonymous” movement said they targeted other Iranian state institutions, including state television.
Central Bank spokesman Mostafa Qamarivafa, in a statement carried by the official IRNA news agency, denied that the bank itself had been hacked, saying only that the website was “unreachable” due to an attack on the server that hosted it. The site was later restored.
Iran has been the target of numerous cyberattacks in recent years, many by hackers critical of its theocracy. Last year, a cyberattack crippled gas stations Angry motorists forming long queues across the country will not be able to buy subsidized fuel for days. The messages accompanying the attack appeared to belong to the supreme leader.
Ami’s death sparked protests across the country. Police say she died of a heart attack and was not abused, but her family is skeptical, saying she had no prior heart problems that prevented them from seeing her body.
In a telephone interview with BBC Farsia on Wednesday, his father Amjad Amini accused the authorities of lying about his death. Every time he was asked how he died, the line was mysteriously cut off.
The UN human rights office says the morality police have stepped up operations and resorted to more violent methods in recent months.including slapping women, beating them with batons and forcing them into police cars.
Speaking at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, President Joe Biden expressed support for the protesters, saying, “We stand with the brave citizens and brave women of Iran who are demonstrating right now to secure their basic rights.”
Britain also issued a statement on Wednesday calling for an investigation into Ami’s death and for Iran to “respect the right to peaceful assembly”.
Raisi demanded an investigation into Ami’s death. Iranian officials blamed the protests on unnamed foreign countries trying to incite unrest.
Iran has been struggling with waves of protests in recent yearsmainly due to the long-term economic crisis, exacerbated by Western sanctions related to the nuclear program.
The Biden administration and European allies have been working to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which limited Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, but negotiations have been deadlocked for months.
In a speech at the UN, Raisi said Iran was committed to restoring the nuclear deal, but questioned whether he trusted America’s commitment to any deal.
Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. It began ramping up its nuclear activities after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of the deal in 2015, and experts say it now has enough enriched uranium to make a bomb.