Iran blocks social media amid reports of dead protesters

Unrest inside Iran is growing as protests continued for a fourth day, with several deaths reported. Is this the beginning of change in the Islamic Republic? 

By: AP and World Israel News Staff

Iran state TV reported that authorities have temporarily blocked Instagram and the Telegram messaging app to “maintain peace” amid anti-government protests.

Telegram CEO Pavel Durov said Sunday that Iran is “blocking access … for the majority of Iranians” after protesters used the popular messaging app to plan and publicize demonstrations.

The Telegram app has been used to share videos of the protests, the largest since 2009, and times for new rallies.

Users said Sunday that they could no longer access the app via cellphone networks, though it was still available via wifi and home internet connections.

Meanwhile, a semi-official news agency in Iran has quoted a government official as saying that two protesters were killed at a rally overnight.

The Mehr news agency reported Sunday that the two protesters were killed in Doroud, in Iran’s Lorestan province.

Mehr quoted Habibollah Khojastepour, the security deputy of Lorestan’s governor, as saying an “illegal” gathering took place in Doroud on Saturday night, igniting clashes.

Khojastepour commented, “Two of our dear Doroudi citizens were killed,” without elaborating on the cause of death. There were also reports of several more protester deaths across the Islamic Republic.

Protests in Iran began Thursday in Mashhad over economic issues. While Iran’s economy has improved since the nuclear deal, which required Iran to limit uranium enrichment in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions, financial gains have not reached the average Iranian, and unemployment remains high.

Notwithstanding Tehran’s global oil sales and Western aircraft deals worth tens of billions of dollars, inflation has crept up to 10 percent again. A recent increase in egg and poultry prices by as much as 40 percent, which a government spokesman blamed on avian flu, appears to have been the spark for the protests, which have expanded to cities across the Islamic Republic. Dozens have been arrested since the protests began.

Israel and US to blame?

US President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday that Iranians are “finally getting wise” to their money being “squandered on terrorism.”

“Big protests in Iran. The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!” Trump tweeted.

Protesters are complaining about the discrepancies between Iran’s success outside the country, in its military campaigns in Iraq and Syria, while inside the country the government has failed with unemployment and the cost of living.

Ignoring the voices on the street, an Iranian minister blamed Israel and the US for “gleefully” cheering the protests, “as if something was happening in Iran.”

“Our enemies, especially those who have no standing in their [own] countries and [have] not been elected by [their] people, have claimed to be backing our people and our people’s rights in the past few days,” Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said, according to Iran’s Press TV.