As internet access restored in Iran, videos showing government abuses leak out

In an attempt to quell last month’s protests over gas prices, Iran implemented what observers called “the largest internet shutdown ever.”

Last week, the government began restoring internet access to the nation. Mobile phone access to the internet remains blocked.

Since then, videos have begun to emerge of the chaos and violence that occurred during the blackout. Some of these videos show human rights abuses being committed by security forces, including shooting into crowds of unarmed protesters, said Amnesty International researcher Raha Bahreini in a New York Times video op-ed.

Last month, the Iranian government announced steep increases to gas prices, which it claimed was necessary due to the United States’ economic sanctions. In response, thousands of Iranians took to the streets in protest. Banks and gas stations were burned, and traffic ground to a halt as crowds destroyed statues and photos of the Ayatollah. The protests were deemed the most widespread in the nation since at least 2009.

Sometime around Nov. 15, the internet went dark. By then, dozens had been killed, hundreds injured, and more than 1,000 arrested.

As the government attempted to restore order in the ensuing weeks, some information nevertheless trickled out. The U.S. State Department has reportedly received 20,000 images, emails, and texts from Iranians heeding Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s public call for evidence showing the state violently suppressed protests during the blackout.

Since internet access was restored in parts of the country, information about what happened during the blackout, as well as images and videos, have begun circulating on social media.

Hundreds were reportedly killed and thousands arrested, though estimates vary widely, with some saying as many as 600 deaths and 10,000 arrests.

In response, the Iranian government has released a video contradicting reports of state-sanctioned violence against unarmed protesters. The propaganda piece with English subtitles argues that the protesters were enemies who belonged to a mass conspiracy, which aligns with the government’s claim that foreigners, monarchists, and opposition groups were behind the protests.

“The Iranian nation quashed the enemy’s movement,” the Ayatollah says in a speech amid videos attempting to paint the protesters as lawless and violent.

Much like the internet blackout, the online battle to determine what is the truth is similar to that seen in Syria when Turkey invaded in October.

 

The Iranian government has warned that some internet access might be permanently suspended.

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Claire Goforth

Claire Goforth

Claire Goforth is a Jacksonville, Florida-based journalist covering politics, culture, justice, and unicorns. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from regional alt-weeklies to Al Jazeera.