Iran’s Gov. Enforced Major Internet Restrictions in Response to Protests Over Gas Prices

Photo credits: Dr. Nasser Haghighat

On Sunday (November 17), the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) announced that Iran’s Supreme National Security Council imposed a 24-hour crackdown on internet use in the predominantly Shi’ite Muslim nation.

The Daily Sabah (a pro-government Turkish newspaper) reported that ISNA also said that Tehran’s course of action was articulated overnight to all internet service providers operating within Iran’s borders. The Iranian government’s internet shutdown came several days after protests began erupting across the nation. Iran’s citizens are reportedly protesting because of their government’s recently imposed gas price increases.

NetBlocks, a Western-backed website that monitors global internet use and freedoms reported late last week that the Supreme National Security Council of Iran’s web crackdown was going into effect.

“Confirmed: Iran is now in the midst of a near-total national internet shutdown; real-time network data shows connectivity at 7% of ordinary levels after twelve hours of progressive network disconnections,” NetBlocks posted in a message on Twitter.

Iran’s state-sponsored television news outlet refuted “hostile media” claims by opposition channels in the Middle East and beyond. Pro-Tehran media channels made counterclaims, which stated that reports about the magnitude of Iranian protests due to increased gas prices are exaggerated and blown out of proportion. Also, Iran’s supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei openly supported his government’s decision to raise gas prices.

On Sunday, the Ayatollah shunned the “thug” protesters who he says have damaged property during their angry demonstrations. In his publicly televised statement, Khamenei also hinted that an increase on protest crackdowns will be enforced by Tehran’s government in the coming days. He urged Iranian citizens to steer clear of any protest activities, which employ the use of violence or destruction.

“[I call on the Revolutionary Guard’s security forces to] implement their tasks,” the Ayatollah said.

Khamenei blamed Iran’s regional foes and its enemies across the globe for his country’s current unrest. Even though Iran’s gas prices are higher now, a gallon of fuel still costs around 50 cents, the Daily Sabah reported. In the United States, the average cost of fuel is around $2.60 a gallon. Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s moderate Muslim president, was a leading implementer of Tehran’s national gas price increase.

The Daily Sabah also reported that at least one person was killed over the past several days during protests in Iran. ISNA reported that 40 arrests have been made as well. Iran is currently allied with Russia, Syria, and Hezbollah militants in a proxy war against Saudi Arabia, the United States, anti-government Syrian rebels, and Israel.

It is quite plausible that one of Iran’s hostile neighbors (such as Saudi Arabia) could be clandestinely exporting a manufactured crisis in the wake of Tehran’s national oil price increase. For peace to prevail in the Persian Gulf area, Iran must be careful and use restraint in its resolve when dealing with this current issue at hand.

If not, it will play directly into the hands of its enemies by demonizing its own people, bullying them, and weakening its petroleum-based economy even further than international sanctions already have.

The last thing Tehran’s mullahs should be doing is domestically taking their poor and most vulnerable people as hostages whilst attempting to use oil wealth as a weapon globally.