Iran limits mobile internet access ahead of expected protests

Iran limits mobile internet access ahead of expected protests

Tehran disrupts international connections day before commemorations for those killed demonstrating over fuel price hike

Iranian protesters gather around a fire during a demonstration against an increase in gasoline prices in the capital Tehran, on November 16, 2019. (AFP)
Iranian protesters gather around a fire during a demonstration against an increase in gasoline prices in the capital Tehran, on November 16, 2019. (AFP)

A wave of internet outages was imposed in Iran Wednesday, ILNA news agency reported, a day before commemorations were to begin for those killed in unrest last month.

The cut came on the orders of security bodies, the news agency said, citing what it called an informed source at Iran’s information and communications technology ministry.

“This restriction on internet access solely includes international traffic of mobile phone lines,” the source was quoted as saying.

It also excluded what the source called “internal traffic,” indicating only domestic websites would be accessible.

A bike-delivery food messenger stands next to another man as they both use smartphones along the side of a street in the Iranian capital Tehran on November 23, 2019. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

ILNA said international connections would be limited in the provinces of Alborz, Fars, Kurdistan and Zanjan, and that this was likely to be expanded to include others.

A later update by the labor-focused news agency excluded information from its original report, including that the outage had been ordered by security bodies and the province names.

AFP correspondents in Tehran reported disruptions on Wednesday to internet connections and other related services.

NetBlocks, a website that monitors international internet outages, also reported the disruptions, tweeting that there had been “evidence of mobile internet disruption in parts of #Iran” since 6:30 am [0300 GMT].”

“Real-time network data show two distinct drops in connectivity this morning amid reports of regional outages; incident ongoing.”

The outages come ahead of planned commemorations for people killed in street violence that erupted last month during demonstrations against fuel price hikes.

At the time, authorities imposed a week-long internet blackout as police stations were attacked, shops looted and banks and petrol stations torched.

Officials in Iran have yet to issue an overall death toll for the unrest, but human rights group Amnesty International has put the number at more than 300 and news agency Reuters pegged the number of dead at around 1,500, including at least 17 teenagers and some 400 women.

Among them was Pouya Bakhtiari, a 27-year-old who reportedly died in Karaj, the capital of Alborz province.

Mehr news agency reported on Tuesday that his family were arrested after they were found to have been “carrying out a counter-revolutionary project.

Shops that were destroyed during demonstrations against petrol price hikes, are pictured on November 20, 2019 in Shahriar, west of Tehran. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

Bakhtiari’s Instagram account, reportedly run by his family, had announced a ceremony marking 40 days since his death would be held at Karaj cemetery on Thursday. The Instagram account was still active with more than 19,000 followers on Wednesday.

Last Friday, a group of independent UN rights experts said Iranian security forces were deliberately shooting to kill the unarmed protesters.

The experts pointed to reports and footage showing Iranian security forces “not only fired live ammunition at unarmed protesters, but also aimed at their heads and vital organs.

“Targeting these parts of the body shows that the security forces were aiming to kill or at least cause serious injury,” they said, adding that they were “extremely disturbed that the Iranian authorities would use such tactics against peaceful protesters.”

Iranian authorities had previously imposed a nearly week long near-total internet blackout during November’s protests.

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