Internet disruption reported in southeast Iran amid unrest

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Impoverished southeastern Iran has seen great disruption in internet services, experts said as unrest gripped the remote province after fatal shootings at the border .

Several rights groups reported in a joint statement that authorities had shut down the mobile data network in the agitated province of Sistan and Balochistan, calling the disruptions a “tool to cover up” the severe government crackdown on demonstrations shaking the region.

Reports of internet interference come as Iranian authorities and semi-official news agencies are increasingly recognizing the turmoil facing local authorities in the southeast – a very sensitive issue in a country that seeks to quell any hints of political dissent.

As of Wednesday, the government shut down the mobile data network across Sistan and Balochistan, where 96% of the population accesses the Internet only via their phones, rights groups said, crippling the key communications tool.

After four days of unverified “localized regional network disruptions” amid the protests, NetBlocks, which monitors internet access around the world, confirmed another disruption in internet connectivity in the province starting on Saturday evening.

“This is Iran’s traditional response to any type of demonstration,” Amir Rashidi of the Miaan group, a human rights organization that focuses on digital security in the Middle East, told The Associated Press on Saturday. “Stop Internet to block news and the images that come out make us feel (the authorities) more a comfortable opening fire.

The week saw a series of growing clashes between police and the protesters. Crowds of small arms and grenade launchers descended Thursday at the Kurin checkpoint near Iran’s border with Pakistan, said Abouzar Mehdi Nakhaie, the governor of Zahedan, the provincial capital, in comments released by the Iranian semi-official ISNA. news agency. The violence killed a policeman, he added.

Earlier this week, protesters attacked the district governor’s office and stormed two police in the city of Saravan, outraged by the shootings of fuel smugglers trying to enter Iran from Pakistan on Monday. Border shootings and the clashes that followed killed at least two people, the government said. Many human rights activists in the region have reported higher death tolls without providing any evidence.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh on Friday vowed to investigate the deaths. Officials insisted that calm had returned to the streets.

The Iranian government has previously cut internet access and mobile phone service during tense times. In the fall of 2019, for example, Iran imposed an internet shutdown across almost the entire country as anti-government protests sparked by rising fuel prices rocked the capital of Tehran and other cities. . Hundreds of people were reportedly killed in the crackdown across the country.

Since authorities have targeted the mobile network and not the landline in Sistan and Balochistan, the disruption is unlikely to appear on the regular network. datasaid Mahsa Alimardani, a researcher at Article 19, an international organization that fights against censorship. The region was already suffering from unreliable internet connections.

“This targeted shutdown was very intentional because they knew the realities of this province,” where people are poor and use cheap phones rather than computers, Alimardani said.

Sistan and Balochestan are one of the most unstable and least developed regions of Iran. The relationship between its predominantly Sunni residents and Iran’s Shia theocracy has long been strained. A low-level violent insurgency in Sistan and Balouchestan involves several activists …

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