Iranian newspaper report on the death of Mahsa Amini: WhatsApp wants to "do everything within our technical capabilities to maintain our service
Photo: Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA
After the sensational death of Mahsa Amini, there have been repeated civil protests in several cities in Iran.
The government is apparently also reacting to this with deliberate restrictions on digital communication.
According to the website Netblocks, earlier this week there was an almost complete paralysis of the mobile Internet in the province of Kurdistan, where Amini, who died after being arrested by the vice squad, came from.
According to Netblocks, network disruptions had already occurred in Tehran, albeit to a lesser extent.
It got more serious on Wednesday: the mobile phone networks across the country were temporarily switched off or severely restricted in the evening, the London portal reported.
It made similar observations on Thursday evening, and on Friday night Netblocks spoke of "curfew-like interruptions" in the network connections.
According to the report, WhatsApp and Instagram are also affected by restrictions.
The two offers from Meta have so far been among the few international services in Iran that are popular on the one hand and not yet banned on the other.
On Wednesday, however, both US apps were radically slowed down.
Two informants from Tehran and southern Iran told the Reuters news agency that they could only send messages via WhatsApp, but no longer pictures.
Meanwhile, Instagram seems to be completely blocked.
In 2019 the internet was down for almost a week
Iran's government already used Internet blocks in 2019 to disrupt unwelcome protests: At the time, when people were demonstrating against a fuel price increase, many Iranians were without a network for a week.
Most of the country's citizens go online using their smartphones.
The stationary Internet is less important in Iran than in Germany, for example.
On Thursday evening, WhatsApp commented on the current disruptions to its service.
"We stand up for people's right to access private messages," it said on the messenger's official Twitter account in English and Persian.
"We are working to keep our Iranian friends connected and will do whatever we can to keep our service running."
In its statement, WhatsApp also emphasized that it does not block Iranian phone numbers.
The accusation that the services actively denied users with such numbers the use of the messenger had made the rounds on the net on Thursday.
Amnesty Iran calls for help from other countries
Mahsa Amini died in hospital last Friday after being in a coma.
The 22-year-old had previously been arrested by the vice squad for violating the strict Islamic dress code.
What exactly happened to Amini after her arrest is unclear in detail.
Critics accuse the morality police of using violence.
The police deny these allegations.
Amnesty International's Iranian affiliate wrote on Thursday that it was "deeply concerned that the Iranian authorities are disrupting access to the internet and cellphone networks."
The UN General Assembly called on world leaders to "take urgent action to put pressure on the Iranian authorities to stop killing and injuring protesters under cover of darkness."
Iran has had plans to ban Instagram and end-to-end encrypted WhatsApp for some time.
Internet services from abroad are a thorn in the side of the Islamic establishment because, unlike the state media, the government has no influence over the content disseminated therein.
Services like Twitter, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube are officially unavailable in Iran.
They can only be reached with the help of so-called VPN services – which, however, are no longer of any help in the event of a complete internet failure.