Internet Outages, Arrests, and Anger Overwhelm Iran

Predominantly led by Iranian women and youth, protests have shaken the country for more than a month while government security forces allegedly arrest schoolchildren, hackers interrupt a TV news broadcast, and internet outages continue to disrupt daily life.

The demonstrations, which emerged on September 17 in the wake of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died while in the custody of the nation’s morality police, have led to the deaths of nearly 200 people, at least 19 of whom were children, according to Iran Human Rights. Authorities have also detained at least 35 journalists since the protests started, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported.

The battle between protesters and government security forces has been unrelenting, with neither side willing to acquiesce. In an attempt to disrupt communications with dissenters, the government has been disrupting internet access — consistently going dark from 4 p.m. local time into the night — forcing citizens to rely on virtual private networks to share their version of the events. Elon Musk also activated Starlink, his satellite internet service, but it has faced some access problems since its launch in Iran on September 23. 

According to the BBC, on Saturday, hackers disrupted the country’s main news channel with images of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei surrounded by flames and photos of Amini and three other women killed in recent protests, accompanied by captions like “our youths’ blood is dripping off your paws.” Apparently, the interruption only spanned a few seconds.

On Sunday, security forces arrested Iranian children inside schools, The Guardian reported; the Iranian education minister Mohammad Mahdi Kazem said that no one had been expelled from school. 

After this weekend’s reported unrest, Seyed Mirahmadi, the Iranian deputy interior minister for security affairs, said: “Yesterday, aside from Tehran and Sanandj, the country was completely peaceful … From now on, those who are arrested in the riots will stay in jail until put on trial. They will be rapidly prosecuted and their sentences will be decisive and set as a deterrent.”

As protests continue to surge in Iran, people and leaders around the world have shown solidarity with the demonstrators. Demonstrations in support of the Iran protests have popped up in the United States, Turkey, Canada, Afghanistan and Paris, with women cutting their hair as the universal symbol for solidarity. Earlier this week, Abir Al-Sahlani, a Swedish member of the European Parliament, cut her hair as she delivered a speech at the EU assembly. 

Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden offered remarks in support of Iranian women: “For decades, Iran’s regime has denied fundamental freedoms to its people and suppressed the aspirations of successive generations through intimidation, coercion, and violence. The United States stands with Iranian women and all the citizens of Iran who are inspiring the world with their bravery.”

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