Sep 21, 2022 - World

Internet restricted in Iran as anti-government protests intensify

Protesters in Iran rally to demand justice for Mahsa Amini.
Protesters in Iran rally to demand justice for Mahsa Amini. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Protests over the death of a woman in police custody in Iran last week intensified on Wednesday as unrest spread to dozens of cities.

Driving the news: Mahsa Amini, 22, died after being arrested by Iran's morality police for allegedly violating a religious law requiring women to wear a headscarf.

  • Police claimed Amini was not mistreated and that she died of a heart attack. Her family has expressed doubts over that claim, AP reports.
  • Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who was in New York on Wednesday for the UN General Assembly, has ordered an investigation into Amini's death.

The big picture Hengaw, a Kurdish human rights group, said Wednesday seven protesters have been killed and hundreds of others injured since the demonstrations began last Friday. Hundreds have also been arrested, the group added.

  • Iranian officials have denied reports that protesters have been killed by security forces, per Reuters. Some officials have claimed without evidence that "foreign agents" are fueling the unrest, according to the New York Times.
  • Demonstrators have called for greater freedoms, with some women burning their headscarves, Reuters reports.

State of play: NetBlocks, a London-based watchdog that monitors internet access worldwide, said on Wednesday that Whatsapp and Instagram had been restricted in Iran. Tehran already blocks Facebook, Telegram and Twitter, though many Iranians use VPNs to get around the restrictions.

  • NetBlocks also reported "a near-total disruption" to internet service in parts of Iran's Kurdistan province, where Amini was from, and a "nation-scale shutdown of mobile networks."
  • Iran has restricted internet access in the past to curb anti-government protests.

What they're saying: President Biden on Wednesday said the U.S. stands "with the brave citizens and the brave women of Iran, who right now are demonstrating to secure their basic rights." Multiple European countries have also called for an investigation.

  • Nada Al-Nashif, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement on Tuesday that Iranian "authorities must stop targeting, harassing, and detaining women who do not abide by the hijab rules."
  • Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani accused the U.S. and European Union of meddling in Iran's internal affairs, according to the semi-official Iranian Fars news agency. He called on the U.S. and EU to not use Amini's death to "politicize and objectify" the issue of human rights in Iran.
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