"Woman, life, freedom" have been some of the slogans in the protests after the death of Mahsa Amini in Iran. Now the Iranian population is forced to find creative solutions to circumvent the regime's internet blockades. Photo credit: Stacey MacNaught. Flickr. Photo th: Artin Bakhan. Unsplash.

Development magazine explains

This is how the Iranian population circumvents the regime's internet blockades

To quell the protests after mahsa Aminis death, the Iranian regime restricts the local population's access to the Internet. Several social media platforms are now completely blocked and vthe owners around the blockades are few, but tech company and non-profit organizations work to maintain communication with the outside world. 

In Iran, the country's citizens are currently using computer game chats as a communication platform. Namely, one of the Iranian regime's main means of power is the ability to limit or sometimes completely shut down access to the internet in the country. Netblocks, a company that reviews internet restrictions worldwide, shows that many social media platforms, such as Instagram and Whatsapp, has been blocked completely and that internet access has been severely restricted in several regions of the country. The regime's tools have also become more and more sophisticated, according to Netblocks.

- This is the first time we have seen coordinated attacks [against the Internet] on such a large scale, says Alp Toker, Netblock's founder, to Sky News.

Despite the regime's attempts to limit access to social media, videos from Iranian prisons of prisoners burning inside and of police firing into protesting crowds are circulating. The wave of protests in Iran has followed the 22-year-old The death of Mahsa Amini, which occurred after she had been caught and arrested by the Iranian morality police for wearing her veil in an "improper" manner. The protests have been ongoing since September 16 and, despite repressive measures from the regime, show no signs of abating. During the period 16 September to 3 October could the human rights organization Amnesty International confirm 144 deaths among the protesters, 23 of whom were children aged 11 to 17 year. Later figures show that at least 234 people have died during the protests

New systems for accessing the internet

The internet blockades is an extension of the regime's repressive, physical measures, mean cybersecurity researcher Azadeh Akbari. She points to the access to social media as absolutely crucial for the protesters, both to coordinate protests and reach out with messages, but also to show the size of the movement they are part of. During previous protests in the country, the Iranian regime also used internet blockades to prevent protesters from contacting each other, while protesters were killed and arrested in the open street, former protester Shaghayegh Norouzi told The Guardian. Shaghayegh Norouzi lives in day in exile in Spain.

In order to restore the all-important access to the Internet, the local population is now using new methods. During previous protests, large sections of the population used a virtual private network (VPN) to get around the restrictions, but even those can be blocked by the regime. Now so-called Tor networks have started to be popularized, as they can provide access to the Internet through interconnected servers inside and outside Iran, describes tech correspondent Mike Butcher i TechCrunch. The encrypted chat service Signal also has launched a system so that private individuals can direct traffic through their devices and thus access the internet.

Despite these solutions that can give some people limited access to the Internet, the broad picture of the problem remains. A large part of the population in Iran lacks communication channels between themselves and with the outside world, which are absolutely crucial to being able to coordinate protests, protect each other's safety and spread information about the events to the outside world. Internet blockades is a human rights issue, and with no relief from the regime in sight, they can, according to Amnesty Iran, be decisive for the outcome of the protests.

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