US relaxes internet sanctions to help Iranian protesters connect, share info

As the Iranian government has imposed restrictions on internet access in the backdrop of protests across the country over the death a 22 years old woman in the custody of morality police, the Joe Biden administration on Friday issued guidance to relax sanctions on its internet services in the west Asian country.

Reportedly, the US treasury department relaxed the internet rules despite the US still having a plethora of sanctions imposed on Iran. 

“As courageous Iranians take to the streets to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, the United States is redoubling its support for the free flow of information to the Iranian people,” said deputy treasury secretary Wally Adeyemo

“With these changes, we are helping the Iranian people be better equipped to counter the government’s efforts to surveil and censor them,” he further added.

As reported by WION, earlier this week, the Iranian regime, anticipating the spread of protests had restricted access to the internet as well as social media sites such as Instagram and WhatsApp, the last two remaining social networks in the country. 

Read more: Iran restricts access to Instagram amid intensifying protests

Internet watchdog NetBlocks reported a “nation-scale loss of connectivity” on network providers in Iran. London-based NetBlocks said that WhatsApp’s servers were disrupted on multiple internet providers just hours after Instagram was blocked.

Internet access is often curbed in Iran to stop protesters from posting videos on social media.

In 2019, the government shut down the internet for about a week to stifle fuel protests which turned political, sparking the bloodiest crackdown in the 40-year history of the Islamic Republic.

Last week’s death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by morality police in Tehran for “unsuitable attire”, has unleashed anger over issues including freedom in the Islamic Republic and an economy reeling from sanctions.

WATCH | Why are women in Iran protesting against Hijab?

The anti-government protests are not expected to pose an immediate threat to Iran’s clerical rulers, who have security forces which have put down one protest after another in recent years, analysts say.

But the protests have clearly made the authorities nervous. Women, who have played a prominent role, have challenged the country’s Islamic dress code, waving and burning their veils.

(With inputs from agencies)

WATCH WION LIVE HERE: