Security forces in Iran have further tightened their squeeze on internet activity, shutting down access on nearly all major cellular networks and blocking Instagram and WhatsApp. Other major social media platforms including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter had already been banned.
Global internet monitor Netblocks said they were the most severe internet restrictions in the country since the deadly crackdown on protests in November 2019, when a sudden rise in fuel price sparked a nationwide deadly protest. Activists believe Iranian officials are now aiming, largely unsuccessfully, to thwart the spread of protests sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini.
Security and intelligence officials in Tehran seem frightened by the determination of the popular protests against their harsh rule. Security forces have tried to disperse demonstrators by firing tear gas, metal pellets and live ammunition and beating protesters, human rights groups say.
At least three internet freedom activists have been arrested over the past two days. They join a growing number of protesters and students detained in the last 18 days.
Internet freedom activists and technologists Mohsin Tahmasb and Hossein Darvari were arrested on Monday.
Armed forces stormed Darvari’s house in the capital and confiscated all his electronic devices. He has since been moved to an undisclosed location.
His brother Ali said a drone was flying over their house prior to Hossein's arrest. Intelligence officers had been watching their house for days. In a series of tweets, which he later deleted, Ali Darvari said intelligence forces had phoned his father and asked about Hossein's activities on Friday. He has also said that a large number of security officers stormed their home as if they were trying to arrest a "group of terrorists, not an internet activist."
His family have expressed concern as they have no information about Hossein's whereabouts and the police are not answering their inquiries about what has happened to him.
The following day, security forces arrested Aryan Eghbali, a digital rights activist and internet freedom defender. He was opposing a government plan to restrict the internet days before the new round of unrest began.
"Two of my friends, internet technologists and governance experts Aryan Eghbali and Hossein Darvari are detained by Islamic Republic enforcers," one of their friends said. "Just because of their knowledge and expertise. Be their voice."
Another targeted group of professionals in today’s Iran are journalists. The international press freedom watchdog, the Committee to Protect Journalists, said Tuesday it had documented the arrest of 35 journalists since the new round of protests began.
"This list, current as of October 4, 2022, is based on information obtained from CPJ’s sources inside Iran, media reports, and the Tehran Journalists Association. The list will be regularly updated to record known arrests and releases," the committee said in a statement.
The new wave of public anger flared after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, died in police custody on September 16, three days after her arrest for allegedly breaching Iran's strict rules for women wearing hijab.
The angry protesters have tapped a deep well of grievances in the Islamic Republic, including the country’s social restrictions, political repression of opposition figures and groups, and the weak economy reeling under US sanctions for Iran’s nuclear ambitions.