See no evil: Iran restricts internet in province rocked by anti-regime protests

A digital rights watchdog group reported that Iranians experienced “internet restrictions” in a region where protesters shouted anti-regime slogans like “no Gaza, no Lebanon, I will die for Iran.”

By Ebin Sandler, World Israel News

Network data from NetBlocks’ internet observatory identified “internet restrictions” in Iran’s Khuzestan Province on Thursday around 10:00 p.m. local time, amid reports that Islamic Republic security forces descended upon anti-government rallies.

“Demonstrations are taking place in Behbahan, Khuzestan with slogans critical of Iranian foreign policy and the economic crisis,” said a report issued by NetBlocks. “In recent days, many Iranians have spoken out against the death penalty following the sentencing of youths who participated in the November 2019 protests.”

The internet disruption arrived as demonstrators began to disseminate videos of the Khuzestan protests , The Associated Press reported.

Iranian forces broke up those anti-regime rallies late Thursday, where protesters chanted against the the Islamic Republic’s regional ambitions, shouting slogans such as “no Gaza, no Lebanon, I will die for Iran,” AP reported.

The internet disruptions identified by NetBlocks “affect connectivity at the network layer and cannot be worked around by users,” meaning that “they are likely to significantly limit coverage of incidents as they take place.”

Internet censorship and control by the Iranian government is pervasive, and includes a blanket ban on residents using Twitter, despite the fact that Supreme Leader Ayatolah Ali Khamene, President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif use the social media platform to promote pro-regime propaganda to the outside world.

Earlier this week, multiple Iranian networks “were disrupted for approximately three hours while users reported slow or unusable internet,” an incident that occurred as “as hashtags calling on Iranian authorities to halt executions trended globally on social media,” said NetBlocks

The hashtags were part of a concerted social media campaign by Iranians to bring light to the cause of three men sentenced to execution for protesting the government’s response to the economic crisis gripping the nation. During those protests, hundreds of people were killed, with a significant percentage gunned down by security forces.

Iran’s Supreme Court confirmed death sentences for Amirhossein Moradi, Mohammad Rajabi and Saeed Tamjidi, who were arrested in November 2019.

With regard to the November 2019 unrest, NetBlocks reported, “Iran deliberately shut down internet access amid widespread public protests. While the shutdown started as a total outage, users gradually regained access as connectivity was selectively brought back after a week.”

NetBlocks noted that some of Iran’s internet outages are related to cyber attacks, but “recommends against the use of network disruptions to limit the rights to free expression and free assembly.”