Hackers disrupt Iranian supreme leader on state TV with anti-regime message

Government news broadcast cuts to footage showing women and girls killed during protests, crosshairs on Supreme Leader Khamenei’s forehead, as mass demonstrations enter 4th week

A screenshot shows an anti-regime message that a hacking group cut into an Iranian state TV broadcast, October 8, 2022. (Screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
A screenshot shows an anti-regime message that a hacking group cut into an Iranian state TV broadcast, October 8, 2022. (Screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Hackers disrupted an Iranian state broadcaster’s leading news program on Saturday with a message supporting anti-regime protests as the massive demonstrations entered their fourth week.

The news program was broadcasting an appearance by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, then abruptly cut to a screen with photos of young women and girls who have been killed during the protests.

Among the images was a photo of Mahsa Amini, 22, whose death last month while in the custody of Iran’s notorious morality ignited the furious uprising against the regime.

Above the photos was an image of Khamenei with crosshairs centered on his forehead. Protesters have regularly chanted “Death to the dictator” and called for regime change.

The screen also had Farsi text that read, “The blood of our youths is on your hands,” and a message urging Iranians to join the protests, according to the London-based Iranian opposition outlet Iran International.

A hacking group called Edalat-e Ali claimed responsibility for the disruption. The group hacked into the Iranian state broadcaster’s website and posted an opposition message on the page earlier this year, Iran International reported.

Other hacking groups have played a role in the protests by attacking government websites, releasing documents and interfering with surveillance cameras.

Launched in 2017, Iran International reaches millions of Iranians in Iran and around the world. It is considered an oppositional news outlet to Iran’s regime and has made headlines for covering issues like human rights violations, LGBTQ+ rights and women’s rights in Iran.

The nationwide protests erupted after Amini’s death on September 16, three days after she was arrested in Tehran by the notorious morality police for an alleged breach of Iran’s strict dress code for women.

Iran said Friday an investigation found Amini had died of a longstanding illness rather than “blows” to the head, despite her family saying she had previously been healthy.

The seething protests continued on Saturday, despite over 90 deaths since their start, as schoolgirls chanted slogans, workers went on strike and clashes erupted across the country.

Ultra-conservative Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi called for unity and posed for a photograph with female students at Tehran’s Al-Zahra University in an effort to tamp down the flames, but videos and photos published on social media apparently showed students outside the university taking off and waving their hijabs, and denouncing Raisi and the regime.

In Amini’s hometown Saqez, in the western province of Kurdistan, schoolgirls were heard chanting “Woman, life, freedom” and seen marching down a street swinging headscarves over their heads, in videos the Hengaw rights group said were recorded on Saturday.

In another video it shared, a group of girls could be heard chanting the same phrase — the slogan of the protests — as they entered a school in Sanandaj, the capital of Kurdistan province.

In another widely shared video, a man is seen altering the wording of a large government billboard from “The police are the servants of the people” to “The police are the murderers of the people.”

The ISNA news agency reported a heavy security presence in the capital, especially near universities. It said “scattered and limited gatherings” were held in Tehran during which “some demonstrators destroyed public property.”

Street protests were also reported in Isfahan, Karaj, Shiraz and Tabriz, among other cities.

The Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights says at least 92 protesters have been killed in the crackdown, which has fueled tensions between Iran and the West, especially the United States.

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