Iran cuts social media and internet services as President Raisi addresses UN amid widespread protests

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The Iranians have been cut off from Instagram, WhatsAppand other internet services on Wednesday as protests, sparked by the death of a woman in police custody, rocked the country.

The near total internet blackout came as Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addressed the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday in New York.

The woman, Mahsa Amini, 22, died last Friday while in police custody. She was detained by the country’s vice squad for allegedly wearing the compulsory Islamic scarf too vaguely.

FILE: Protesters chant slogans during a demonstration against the death of a woman in the custody of vice police, in downtown Tehran, Iran.

FILE: Protesters chant slogans during a demonstration against the death of a woman in the custody of vice police, in downtown Tehran, Iran.
(AP Photo)

Police say Amini died of a heart attack and was not abused, but her family cast doubt on that account, saying she had no previous heart problems and they were kept in check. to see 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.

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Protests continued for a fifth day on Wednesday, as protesters clashed with police and called for the fall of the Islamic Republic. In the capital Tehran, police fired tear gas at protesters who chanted “death to the dictator” and “I will kill whoever killed my sister”, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

London-based rights group Amnesty International said security forces are ‘violently cracking down on largely peaceful protests sparked by’ Amini’s death and that at least eight people have died and hundreds have been injured .

NetBlocks, a London-based group that monitors internet access, previously reported widespread disruptions to both Instagram and WhatsApp.

Facebook’s parent company Meta, which owns both platforms, told Fox News it was “aware that Iranians are cut off from internet services.”

“Iranians use apps like Instagram to stay close to loved ones, access timely and important information, and stay connected to the rest of the world,” a company spokesperson said in a statement. “We hope their right to be online will be restored soon.”

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Earlier Wednesday, Iranian Telecommunications Minister Isa Zarepour was quoted by state media as saying that some restrictions could be imposed “due to security concerns”, without giving further details.

Iran already blocks Facebook, Telegram, Twitter and YouTube, although senior Iranian officials use public accounts on these platforms. Many Iranians circumvent the bans by using virtual private networks, called VPNs, and proxies.

FILE: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, September 1.  21, 2022.

FILE: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, September 1. 21, 2022.
(AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

President Biden, who spoke at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, voiced his support for the protesters, saying “we stand with the brave citizens and brave women of Iran, who are protesting at this time to ensure their basic rights”.

Raisi, who also spoke at the United Nations General Assembly, called for an investigation into Amini’s death.

Iran has been grappling with waves of protests in recent years, mostly over a long-running economic crisis exacerbated by Western sanctions over its nuclear program.

The Biden administration and its European allies are working to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, in which Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief, but talks have stalled for months.

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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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.