• Iran has been rocked by monster protests since the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd arrested by morality police.

  • At least 92 people have been killed and hundreds arrested in Iran since September 16, according to the Oslo-based NGO Iran Human Rights.

  • The Iranian regime has drastically restricted internet access in order to stifle dissent.

    20 Minutes

    returns for you to this stranglehold on the Net with insights from Iran specialists Mahnaz Shirali and Jonathan Piron.

From the alleys of Twitter to the cobblestone streets and from the recriminations of Instagram to the avenues of protest, there is only one step.

And the Iranian regime has understood this well.

The country is shaken by demonstrations of anger, following the death of Mahsa Amini on September 16, a young woman arrested by the morality police.

And bloody repression.

A hundred people were killed by the authorities, according to the NGO Iran Human Rights.

In order to limit gatherings and increase its control over the population, the Iranian regime has severely limited access to the Internet.

"Kill and Wound in the Dark"

As early as September 19, three days after the death of Mahsa Amini, the NetBlocks site, which monitors Internet blockages around the world, noted an interruption of service in certain regions of the province of Kurdistan - where the young woman was from. .

"These are localized cuts in time and space, sometimes they affect a large part of the country, sometimes areas where the regime is about to initiate repression", deciphers the historian specializing in Iran Jonathan Piron.

Many associations greeted the news with anguish.

On Instagram, the NGO Amnesty International expressed concern that these cuts and censorships would allow the authorities to "kill and injure more demonstrators in the dark".

"The regime's goal is to cut off the Internet, the telephone, Iranians' access to the free world and to do what it wants with its people: kill them," said sociologist and political scientist Mahnaz Shirali.

Social Media Hunt

Tehran has restricted access to social media for years.

"Social networks are very popular in Iran, especially WhatsApp, Telegram and Instagram", lists Jonathan Piron.

As early as 2006, Iranian authorities were accused of censoring more sites than any other country except China.

YouTube, Twitter, the BBC, Netflix, TikTok… All these sites have gradually been banned in the Middle Eastern country - however, many members of the government have a Twitter account.

Instagram and WhatsApp, international apps that had so far resisted the regime's relentless censorship, were shut down on September 21.

But if many sites are censored by the regime, social networks are particularly targeted.

“Social networks have become both a window on Iran, allowing to see what is happening there from abroad, but also a window which allows Iranians to see the free world, outside », image Mahnaz Shirali.

"These platforms have had great potential for channeling the anger of young Iranians for several years and that has scared the Iranian regime, which does not want social cohesion to create a revolution," adds the author of

Window on Iran, the cry of a gagged people


“There is no on/off button”

As in France, the Iranian demonstrators write to each other online, organize themselves, meet.

By censoring the most popular social media and banning access to application stores (Google Play/Apple Store), the Iranian regime is silencing a large part of the population.

Some Iranians were already using VPNs, which encrypt user traffic and connect it to a remote server, or the Tor network to circumvent Tehran's hold on the Net.

“Censorship was already daily in Iran and daily many Iranians circumvented it”, underlines Mahnaz Shirali.

But some Internet users find themselves helpless.

Especially since the regime has other strings to its bow.

“Telephone operators are deactivated, the regime prevents certain operators from giving Internet access to their users, at the level of a region or a city”, explains Jonathan Piron.

"The cuts are sporadic and quite random, there is no on/off button", specifies however the researcher within Etopia.

In the late afternoon and evening, restrictions increase, as does the risk of gatherings.

Relay images "at the risk of his life"

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, accuses the West - and in particular its sworn enemies the United States and Israel - of having fomented these demonstrations.

Iranian authorities believe that the Internet is a tool of the West to destabilize the country.

“For a very long time, the Iranian regime has wanted to have an intranet that would allow it to control everything circulating in the country.

Iran has acquired real know-how in this area,” maintains Jonathan Piron.

In 2019 and 2020, during the major demonstrations against the increase in fuel prices, the power had cut off all access to the Internet for three days.

And suppressed the protest in blood.

But this technique, systematically used by Tehran, is "a double-edged sword", explains Mahnaz Shirali.

"All the country's administrations are connected to the Internet, they cannot cut off entirely in the long term since all their organization, their coordination, goes through the Internet", illustrates the Iran specialist.

So, when censorship is so strong that no tool, including VPN and Tor, can circumvent it, some Iranians opt for the physical maneuver.

“Some very skilful young people approach public buildings to secretly connect to their WiFi and relay their images of repression… At the risk of their lives.

Because despite everything, adds Mahnaz Shirali, "the more we talk about it, the more we protect the population".

By the Web

"Splinternet": When the threat of Internet fragmentation becomes clearer


Iran: Supreme Leader accuses US and Israel of fomenting 'riots'

  • World

  • Iran

  • Tehran

  • Demonstration

  • Human rights

  • Internet

  • Censorship