Mahsa Amini death: Iran restricts internet as protest death toll rises


Iranian authorities have said they will restrict internet access in the country until calm returns to the streets, as protests over the death of a young woman in ethics police custody have rocked the Islamic Republic.

Thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets in protest since Mahsa Amini, 22, was arrested in Tehran last week for not wearing a hijab correctly and sent to a “re-education center”.

Demonstrations have taken place in at least 40 cities across the country since Friday, including the capital Tehran, with protesters demanding an end to violence and discrimination against women, as well as an end to the mandatory wearing of the hijab.

Dozens of protesters were reportedly killed in clashes with security forces.

CNN has been unable to independently verify the death toll — an accurate figure has not been confirmed by anyone outside the Iranian government — and opposition groups, international human rights groups and local journalists have given different estimates. Amnesty International said on Friday that at least 30 people, including four children, had died; 35 had died, according to state media Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting.

Authorities hope to control the protests by restricting the internet.

Iranian Communications Minister Ahmed Wahidi told state broadcaster IRIB on Friday: “Until the riots are over, the internet will be restricted. In order to prevent riots from being organised through social media, we are obliged to restrict the internet. .”

Wahidi’s comments came after videos on social media showed scenes of public revolt, with women removing and burning their headscarves and demonstrators chanting slogans such as “Women, life, freedom.”

The move to further restrict the internet also comes after the United Nations called for an independent investigation into Amini’s death and asked Iranian security forces not to use “disproportionate force” against protesters.

The outrage over Amini’s death has come from public skepticism over accounts provided by state officials who claimed she died of a “heart attack” and fell into a coma. But Amini’s family said she had no previous heart disease.

Amini’s death has now become a symbol of the violent oppression that Iranian women have faced for decades, and her name has spread across the globe, even being invoked by world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City this week. name.

UN experts strongly condemn the use of physical violence against women by Iranian state authorities, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Thursday.

“Iranian authorities say (Amini) died of a heart attack and claim her death was of natural causes. However, some reports suggest that Amini’s death was the result of alleged torture and ill-treatment,” it said in a statement. said in the statement.

“We call on the Iranian authorities to conduct an independent, impartial and prompt investigation into Ms. Amini’s death, make its findings public, and hold all perpetrators accountable,” it added.

Internet monitoring agency Netblocks said Friday that Iranians are facing a third wave of “nationwide” outages in mobile internet connections as protests continue.

The regulator said earlier this week that Iran is experiencing its worst internet restrictions since 2019, with mobile networks largely shut down and social networks Instagram and WhatsApp restricted in the country since the protests began.

To circumvent internet blocks, Iranians at home and abroad are turning to popular virtual private network (VPN) providers such as Tor Project and Hula VPN — Iran’s top downloads through the Google Play Store (Android smartphone market) Application According to the monitoring service AppBrain, the user downloads the application.

However, Netblocks warns that internet outages of the kind currently seen in the country “generally cannot be resolved through the use of circumvention software or VPNs”.

Similar internet restrictions were imposed in Iran in November 2019, with Iranians almost completely offline as authorities tried to curb the spread of nationwide protests over fuel prices.

Oracle’s Internet intelligence unit called it “the largest ever Internet shutdown in Iran” at the time.

Meanwhile, internet activist hacker group Anonymous has also targeted the Iranian government online over the past week, announcing on Thursday several breaches of government websites.

Using the hashtag #OpIran, short for Operation Iran, which started gaining traction on social media after Amini’s death, Anonymous also tweeted Thursday that the group managed to hack more than 1,000 Iranian CCTV cameras – CNN Can’t do this. Independent confirmation.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Friday that he was “concerned by reports of excessive use of force in peaceful protests, resulting in dozens of deaths and injuries”.

“We call on the security forces to refrain from using unnecessary or disproportionate force, and call on all to exercise restraint to avoid further escalation,” Dujarric said in UN TV’s daily briefing.

The United Nations said it was closely monitoring the protests in Iran and called on the authorities to “respect the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association”.

“We also call on the authorities to respect women’s rights, eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and girls, and take effective measures to protect them from other human rights violations in accordance with international standards.”

Guterres repeated a call by the Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights for an “independent competent authority” to conduct a swift investigation into Amini’s death.

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