Iran has shut down the internet in parts of Tehran and Kurdistan, blocking access to platforms such as Instagram and WhatsApp. It seeks to curb the spread of protest movements that rely on social media to document dissent.
The protests that began on September 16 following the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman in police custody show no signs of abating. On Thursday, protesters set fire to police stations and vehicles in several cities.
This happens when a video of a woman burning her hijab goes viral and an anti-establishment demonstration leaks into cyberspace. Other women have posted emotional videos. cut hair in protest Under the hashtag #Mahsa_Amini.
Mahsa Amini was detained on September 16 for allegedly wearing a hijab headscarf in an “improper” manner. Activists said a Kurdish woman whose first name was Gina had been fatally shot in the head, but the authorities who announced the investigation denied the allegations. Her family suspects she was beaten and tortured.
In response to her death, the US put Iran’s morality police on a blacklist for sanctions on Thursday.
The US Treasury Department said the Morality Police were “responsible” for Amini’s death and announced sanctions for “abuse and violence against women in Iran and violations of the rights of peaceful Iranian protesters.”
Iranian state media said street rallies had spread to 15 cities by Wednesday, with police using tear gas to make arrests and disperse crowds of up to 1,000 people.
In southern Iran, demonstrators set fire to a giant picture flanking a building of General Qassem Soleimani, the revered Revolutionary Guard commander who was killed in a US attack in Iraq in 2020. Video footage of the launch was shown, said to have been taken on Wednesday.
Protesters threw rocks at security forces, set fire to police vehicles and trash cans, and chanted anti-government slogans, state-run Iruna news agency reported.
On Thursday, Iranian media said three militiamen “mobilized to deal with the rioters” were stabbed or shot dead in the northwestern city of Tabriz, the hub of Qazbin and Mashhad in the country’s northeast. said.
A fourth member of the security forces has died in the southern city of Shiraz, Iranian news agency reported, adding that a protester was stabbed to death in Qazbin, adding to the deaths of six protesters already announced by authorities. added.
Iranian officials deny any involvement in the death of the protesters.
Amnesty International said security forces shot four people with metal pellets at point-blank range, recording eight deaths: six men, one woman and one child.
The protests are among Iran’s most serious since the November 2019 unrest over rising fuel prices.
“The shutdown of the internet must be understood as an extension of the violence and repression that is happening in the physical space,” said Azadeh Akbari, a cyber surveillance researcher at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. It is existential to the mobilization of protesters, not only to do so, but also to amplify resistance actions.
“When you see a woman standing in front of the riot police without a hijab, it’s very brave. women do the same.
“Women, life and freedom” were the words that could be heard at Amini’s funeral and have been repeated by protesters across the country. A video of a young woman burning her hijab while male protesters fought security forces. This video has over 30,000 views on his Twitter.
in another video An Iranian woman sings a hymn to depraved youth while cutting her hair with household scissors.has accumulated over 60,000 views.
“[The videos] A young Iranian Twitter user told The Guardian newspaper that the protests had not reached her hometown, but added that she was able to join the protest online. She said, “I am saddened that my compatriots in other parts of Iran are taking to the streets and fighting this regime for all our rights. And I will share information online.” I can do nothing else.”
She added that videos showing police brutality against protesters have motivated people in different cities to take action.
“It is very difficult for the regime to control the leaked videos. increase.”
Social media has long been one of the key tools of dissident activity, as public spaces are heavily policed by security forces. “Platforms like Instagram have become virtual streets where we can gather to protest, because in real life that would not have been possible,” said a gender-based violence exile in Spain. Shagayeg Norouji, an Iranian campaigner against the
Norouji said he was able to stay in touch with activists in Tehran, but feared future internet outages and what that would mean for the safety of activists.
“During the last protest [2017-2019], the government shut down the internet for days at a time. Meanwhile, protesters have been killed and arrested,” she said. “Protesters are also using the internet to organize. They can call each other to warn when they are in danger.”
Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps called on the judiciary to prosecute “those who spread false news and rumors” in a statement released Thursday.
Amini’s death comes amid a government crackdown on women’s rights. On August 15, Iran’s hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, signed a decree increasing punishments for women who post anti-hijab content online.
In a briefing with Western reporters on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Raishi said the circumstances of Amini’s death were under investigation.
Early signs of an investigation, he said, indicated there had been no beatings or violence that led to her death. “It’s not a final decision,” he said.
He said police violence deaths have occurred hundreds of times in the United States as well as the United Kingdom.
Akbari said the Iranian government is strengthening its cyber regime while targeting women’s rights. She fears continued internet blackouts could be used to fuel the expansion of Iran’s state-owned internet, which is cut off from the rest of the world.
“This is a very risky plan that will lead the regime to completely cut Iran off from the world internet in the near future,” she said. “This will allow the regime to police physical space and control cyberspace, developing control mechanisms that permeate everything.”
Additional reporting by Patrick Winter, New York