Iranian Blackouts Amid Mass Protests

An internet blackout covering Iran came crashing down on Wednesday among mass protests against the government. An Iranian official indicated this measure might be taken to combat security concerns. The idea is that the loss of connectivity makes it more difficult for protest organizations and widespread information sharing about the government’s crackdown on traditional laws.

After the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, Iran has seen protests all over its nation. Amini was detained for wearing her Islamic headscarf too loosely. Demonstrators are crying out for the downfall of the Islamic Republic and butting heads with the police. Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday and briefly addressed the incident, promising an investigation and condolences to the family.

Amnesty International, the London-based rights group, said security has used batons, birdshot, tear gas, and water cannons on protesters. There are reportedly eight deaths linked to the protests, with half killed by security forces. Hundreds have been injured in the protests so far. But Iranian officials blame unnamed armed groups for the deaths.

Witnesses in Iran said they no longer had access to the internet using their mobile devices. WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram acknowledged the internet outage, with the Meta company spokesperson stating, “We hope their right to be online will be reinstated quickly.” Before the blackout, Iran’s Telecommunications Minister Isa Zarepour warned state media that certain restrictions were coming due to security issues in the country. Iran already blocks the most popular social networking sites, but many Iranians get around the bans by using a VPN.

Several official banking websites were also taken down during the blackout, including the Central Bank, which supports government officials. Cyberattacks on state agencies were briefly brought on by hackers targeting other Iranian state agencies like state TV. Iran has experienced several cyberattacks recently as hackers criticize its theocracy. But Central Bank Spokesman Mostafa Qamarivafa said the server was attacked, not the bank. The website was restored shortly.

Amini’s death has catapulted the country’s protests. The police claim she died, without maltreatment, of a heart attack. Her family is not convinced as she never had severe health conditions. The family also states they were not allowed to see her body.