Iranians are experiencing a near total media blackout as protests continue to erupt across the country over the murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
Guidance Patrol, Iran’s Religious Morality Police, detained and beat Amini for failing to wear her hijab according to government standards on September 16.
Thousands of people have since taken to the streets to rebuke the authoritarian regime that allows, even facilitates, the oppression of the Iranian people, especially women.
Now it is up to American journalists, or any media personnel operating within a democracy, to ensure that Iranian voices are not stifled by their government.
“We note that internet services, including mobile data, have been blocked in Iran for the past two hours. This is likely a government action given the current situation in the country,” said Doug Madory, director of internet analytics at Kentik, Inc., a network intelligence firm.
Such measures were likely put in place by the Iranian government to limit connectivity while the Iranian people attempt to mobilize against the Islamic regime.
The inability to access social media makes it much more difficult to organize protests and/or shed light on the true nature of the government’s treatment of dissent.
According to the UN Human Rights Office, the Orientation Patrol has stepped up its operations in recent months using violence as a means of crowd control.
There have been cases of Iranian morality police beating women with batons, slapping them, and forcibly locking them in police vehicles.
Amini’s case is not an anomaly; it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It is a testament to how the Iranian government has managed to hide how much it contributes to the suffering and abuse of its own people.
“One of the most alarming things about the information blackout is that we don’t even have an accurate toll,” said Alp Toker, director of Netblocks, a watchdog organization that monitors cybersecurity. “Because what is happening, in terms of human rights abuses, abuses of power becomes much more difficult to document, collect and record.”
Human rights groups estimate that at least 224 protesters have been murdered by Iranian security forces as of October 14. The precise number, however, is impossible to determine.
The only way to reconcile this lack of transparency is with fair and thorough reporting of events unfolding in Iran.
The people of Iran are desperately trying to get out of the mess their government has created, but they need a foothold on the other side.
“We will help ensure that the people of Iran are not kept isolated and in the dark,” US Secretary of State Andrew Blinken said. “This is a concrete step to provide meaningful support to Iranians demanding that their basic rights be respected.”