There has been a near-total internet shutdown in Iran after anti-government protests began on November 15, 2019, over the hike of fuel prices. Security forces killed 106 demonstrators across 21 cities during the rally, according to a Reddit publication on November 22, 2019.
Iranians Face Difficulty Accessing the Internet
Iran has several internet service providers in the country; however, that may be hard to believe since it is challenging to access the net at the moment. The latter is due to the Iranian government's near-total block (reduced to 5% of access) of internet connections. As such, over 80 million citizens are unable to access the internet.
What Caused the Protest in Iran?
The internet censorship began after a nationwide protest against the hike of fuel prices by at least 50 percent. Citizens began to rally, requesting that there is a need for a change of certain leaders of the country.
Nonetheless, it seems that the Iranian government is less enthusiastic about other countries and human rights organizations, keeping a tab on what's happening within its walls during the mass protests. It also aims to reduce the mobilization of more people during the protest and quell the demonstrations since there is no access to WhatsApp and other social media applications.
Despite the internet block, clips of videos and pieces of information about the state of events in the country have been leaked. A video posted on Reddit, for instance, shows security officials firing shots at citizens. Reportedly, 106 people have been killed during the protest. The number of killings goes contrary to the five deaths reported by the Iranian government.
This is what’s been happening in Iran during the near-total internet shutdown. Security forces have shot and killed at least 106 people with complete impunity in nationwide protests. This is what they don’t want the rest of the world to see. Please share. #FreeIran from r/PublicFreakout
Members of the Public's Opinion on Killings
On the other hand, members of the public have not taken the mass killings lightly, pointing out that this is killing at will and total impunity. A Redditor, for instance, remarked that totalitarian dictators run countries like Iran, China, and North Korea.
There were also questions as to how these videos were leaked, given the block on internet access in the country. Explaining how they were sent, a Redditor said:
"In Iran right now, people have access to .ir websites. Those sites that host inside Iran. Activists encrypt video files and upload it to internal .ir websites, their friends on the other side of the world go to the website and download that file. They get the password by calling them on the phone."
In line with that, many opined that a more natural alternative of making sharing videos in the country would be to create a VPN server in Iran. Upon creation of the server, people outside the country can connect to it, and there can be a Peer-2-Peer share of files.
Contrastingly, a Redditor remarked that a VPN server might not be the ideal solution since:
"To try to make a self-hosted VPN server, you'd first need access to the rest of the web. If you can't connect to the rest of the web EXCEPT for whitelisted servers, then no proxy or VPN will save you here."
Suggestion for Iranian Social Media Accounts to be Blocked
On the same note, some countries have criticized the Iranian government's act of partially blocking internet access in the country. Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, for instance, has called on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to block the accounts of the Iranian government leaders.
Some of these accounts are those held by "Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei, the Foreign Minister [Mohammad Javad] Zarif and President [Hassan] Rohani until they restore the Internet to their own people." According to Hook, it is hypocritical to block the internet of your citizens when the government itself is still using the internet to access these social media platforms.
Nevertheless, the inability to access the net in Iran has partly been blamed on U.S. sanctions. The sanction prevented U.S. internet providers from rendering their services to Iranian consumers and businesses. For this reason, citizens had to rely on local services to access the internet.
Iraq and Egypt Has Also Cut Off its Citizen's Access to the Internet
Nevertheless, Iran is not the first country to impose a block on its citizens from accessing the internet. The same was the case with Iraq during its nationwide protest, where over 350 people were killed. Similarly, the Egyptian government during the Arab Spring in January 2011 cut off internet service in the country.
( This video contains scenes of violence )..would you help us ? so they will stop killing us .. We don't want to much we just want our rights our rights that we should born with it and we are here dying to have it ... from r/Iraq
These aside, it is worth noting that there was still a way for journalists to report to media houses during the block in Iraq. The latter is not the case with Iran at the moment. Nonetheless, recent reports reveal that internet access has been restored in the country, but it is only 15 percent of the regular connection.