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Iran Blocks Instagram, Telegram Amid Demonstrations

December 31, 2017 by  

 
TeegramwebtelegramVOA – Iran has blocked Instagram and messaging app Telegram on Sunday amid days of anti-government protests across the country. Authorities were “temporarily” blocking both applications to “maintain peace” amid growing demonstrations, state television said. Many protesters had been using the apps to upload or share photos and videos from demonstrations. Telegram’s CEO said Sunday on Twitter that the app had been blocked after management refused to heed a government request to shut it down. “Iranian authorities are blocking access to Telegram for the majority of Iranians after our public refusal to shut down,” Pavel Durov said. A prominent cleric, Ayatollah Mohsen Araki, told thousands of pro-government demonstrators in Tehran that “the enemy” wanted to use social media and economic issues to “foment a new sedition.”
 

Earlier Sunday, Iran’s interior minister warned that those who “disrupt the order and break the law must be responsible for their behavior and pay the price.” Abdolrahman Rahmani Fazli, in a statement on state television, said “fear and terror will definitely be confronted.”

The uprisings — the biggest and most sustained since the 2009 presidential election protests — were sparked by high food prices and the country’s high unemployment rate. As many as 72 people died in the 2009 unrest after the regime cracked down demonstrators challenging the reelection of then-President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

The latest demonstrations were seen as a cry against President Hassan Rouhani, who won re-election in May with promises to revive the economy.

 

Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal is seen as Rouhani’s major achievement. The deal, made with the United States and five other world powers, curbed Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for relief from international sanctions. But economic growth has not followed, and people are struggling to cope with the high cost of living.

Iran’s unemployment rate is 12.4 percent, its economy stagnant and inflation rampant.

Little information about the protests is available, however, because state-run and semi-official news media have not widely reported on the demonstrations.

As a counter to the violence, separate state-sponsored rallies took place around the country to mark the end of the unrest that shook the country in 2009. State television reported pro-government rallies were held in about 1,200 cities and towns.

Two protesters shot

Two protesters were shot during demonstrations Saturday — killings which an Iranian official blamed on “foreign agents.”

“No shots were fired by the police and security forces,” Habibollah Khojastehpour, a deputy governor of the province where the protesters were killed. “We have found evidence of enemies of the revolution, Takfiri groups and foreign agents in this clash,” he said in an interview on state television Sunday.

The shootings happened in the western town of Dorud. VOA’s Persian service identified the victims as Hamzeh Lashni and Hossein Reshno after a reporter spoke to the victims’ families.

Video posted to social media purported to show the two victims following the shootings. Other online video showed thousands of people protesting in several cities throughout Iran — including some attacking government buildings and violently confronting police.
In a statement Friday, the U.S. State Department said, “Iran’s leaders have turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state, whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos.”

The State Department urged “all nations to publicly support the Iranian people and their demands for basic rights and an end to corruption.”

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