Instagram disrupted: Instagram disrupted across Iran amid protests

Iranians saw their access to Instagram, one of the few western social media platforms still available in the country, disrupted on Wednesday after days of mass protests over the death of a woman in the custody of vice police.

NetBlocks, a London-based group that monitors internet access, reported widespread disruptions. Witnesses inside Iran, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said they were unable to connect using cellphones or dial-up connections. residence.

Iranian authorities had no immediate comment on the Instagram disruption, which would limit protesters’ ability to organize and share information.

Iran is already blocking Facebook, Telegram, Twitter and Youtube, even though senior Iranian officials use public accounts on these platforms. Many Iranians circumvent the bans by using virtual private networks, called VPNs, and proxies.

Separately, the website of Iran’s Central Bank was briefly taken down on Wednesday after hackers claimed to have targeted the websites of several Iranian state agencies. Later, the official websites of the President and Supreme Leader of Iran were down.

The apparent cyberattack came amid days of protests over the death of a woman detained by the country’s vice police for allegedly wearing her Islamic headscarf too loosely. It also happened hours before Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was to address the United Nations General Assembly.

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Central Bank spokesman Mostafa Qamarivafa denied that the bank itself had been hacked, saying only that the website was “unreachable” due to an attack on a server that hosts it, in remarks made by the official IRNA news agency. The website was then restored.

The Ministry of Culture website was also unavailable on Wednesday afternoon.

Hackers linked to the shadowy Anonymous movement said they targeted other Iranian state agencies, including state television and the office of the presidential spokesperson.

Iran has been the target of several cyberattacks in recent years.

In February, dissident hackers posted an anti-government message on a website that airs state TV shows. Last year, an online group posted video footage from inside Iran’s infamous Evin prison which it claimed to have acquired through hacking.

Later that year, a cyberattack crippled gas stations across the country, creating long lines of angry motorists unable to obtain subsidized fuel for days. Messages accompanying the attack appeared to refer to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Other attacks, which Iran has blamed on Israel, have targeted its nuclear program and industrial sites.

Iranians have been protesting for days over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old who was arrested by vice squads last week. Police say she died of a heart attack and was not abused, but her family have cast doubt on that account, saying she had no previous heart problems and they are being treated. prevented from seeing his body.

The UN human rights office says morality police have stepped up their operations in recent months and resorted to more violent methods, including slapping women, beating them with batons and beating them. pushing into police vehicles.

Amini’s funeral on Saturday sparked protests in the Western Kurdish region, where she was originally from, which eventually spread across the country and reached the capital, Tehran. Protesters clashed with police and chanted against the Islamic Republic itself.

Raisi has called for an inquest into Amini’s death. Iranian officials have blamed the protests on unnamed foreign countries they say are trying to foment unrest.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made no reference to the protests during a meeting Wednesday with veterans of the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.

Iran has seen waves of protests in recent years, mainly due to a long economic crisis exacerbated by Western sanctions linked to its nuclear program.

The Biden administration and its European allies have been working to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, in which Iran limited its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, but talks have stalled for years. month.

In his speech at the UN, Raisi said Iran was committed to reviving the nuclear deal, but questioned whether he could trust America’s commitment to any deal.

Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. It began ramping up its nuclear activities after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 deal, and experts say it now likely has enough highly enriched uranium to make a bomb if he chooses to do so.