Washington is working on the licensing of technology to help Iranians break through blocking of communications by the Ayatollah regime.
By Jonathan Hessen and Erin Viner
This, according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, underscored support for protests against the ruling government in Tehran as he met with Iranian activists.
“We’ve imposed sanctions on the so-called “morality police” that are engaged in incredibly abusive practices,” said Washington’s top diplomat, adding, “We have, of course, worked to license technology so that the Iranians have the ability to communicate with one another and to communicate with the outside world.”
“We’ve worked to support those who are standing up for their fundamental freedoms despite the efforts of the regime to deny them the ability to assemble, to speak freely, to communicate with each other,” he underscored.
Iranian authorities have shut down social media in the wake of mass anti-government demonstrations over the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody – in defiance of an brutal attempted crackdown by Iranian authorities. The 22-year-old, an Iranian Kurd, died on 16 September after being arrested in Tehran for “inappropriate” and non-Islamic attire.
Secretary Blinken declined to specify details about the particular technology to which he referred.
He stressed his appreciation for meeting with “colleagues who themselves in many different ways, been on the front lines of the struggle for fundamental freedom and fundamental rights in Iran. To hear from them, to listen to them, to learn from them.”
Concluding his remarks, Blinken stressed that the administration of US President Joe Biden is well aware that “the Iranian regime will try to paint this and other expressions of solidarity with those standing up for their freedoms as evidence that these protests are somehow made outside of Iran and the work of others. And if that’s the case, if they genuinely believe that – they fundamentally do not understand their own people, because this is about Iran’s struggle, the struggle of the people of Iran for the fundamental freedoms that have long been denied them. That’s what this is about. And the sooner the regime understands that and acts on that, the better everyone will be.”
Atrocities being committed by Tehran were the focus of attention at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) last night on the 20th anniversary of the adoption of Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.
“The eyes of the entire world are on Iran right now. Courageous and brave Iranians from across the society, women and men, are protesting the death of Mahsa Amini. They are protesting the fact that she was killed by the Iranian morality police for the crime of being a woman,” said US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
Germany UN Ambassador Antje Leendertse stated that a “current issue of particular concern” to her country “is the ongoing crackdown on women’s rights in Iran. We must reverse all these trends and fully take advantage of the potential that lies in greater participation from all genders and from marginalized groups.”
Iran Deputy Ambassador to the world body Zahra Ershadi lashed out at the increasing condemnations. After claiming that “a thorough” state-run investigation has been conducted into Amini’s “tragic” death that “has broken the hearts” of both the people and the leadership, she said Tehran “advise(s) those Western states that they are not required to act as guardians or caretakers of Iranian women or speak on their behalf.”
(Please see below the full text of the US State Department press release on joining the “Freedom Online Coalition” against the internet shutdown in Iran)
Widespread demonstrations over Amini’s killing have ignited the biggest challenge to Iran’s clerical leaders in years, with protesters calling for the downfall of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi.
With Iranians from all walks of life venting anger on the streets nationwide, the protests mark one of the boldest threats to the government since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has accused his country’s arch-adversaries – the US and Israel – of orchestrating what he called “riots,” and given his full backing for security forces to suppress the demonstrations.
President Raisi, the head of judiciary and parliament speaker issued a joint statement that, “Currently, the Iranian society needs the unity of all its strata regardless of language, religion and ethnicity to overcome the hostility and division spread by anti-Iranians.”
Amini’s death and the crackdown have drawn condemnation from the many Western powers, adding to tensions at a time when talks to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal remain at an impasse.
Joint Statement on Internet Shutdowns in Iran, Office of State Department Spokesperson
20 October 2022
“The United States is pleased to join the Freedom Online Coalition’s consensus Joint Statement on Internet Shutdowns in Iran.
We, the members of the Freedom Online Coalition, are deeply alarmed by and strongly condemn the measures undertaken by Iran to restrict access to the Internet following the nationwide protests over the tragic killing of Mahsa Amini. In furtherance of what has become a longstanding pattern of censorship, the Iranian government has to a large scale shut down the Internet yet again for most of its 84 million citizens nationwide by cutting off mobile data; disrupting popular social media platforms; throttling Internet service; and blocking individual users, encrypted DNS services, text messages, and access entirely.
Millions of Iranians rely on these and other tools to connect with each other and to the outside world. By blocking, filtering, or shutting down these services, the Iranian government is suppressing the right of peaceful assembly and freedoms of association and expression; eroding civic space; reinforcing a continued climate of economic uncertainty; disrupting access to healthcare, emergency services, and financial services; preventing payments for salaries, utilities, and education; and limiting the ability of journalists, human rights defenders, and others to report on and document human rights violations or abuses that are taking place during Internet shutdowns, or communications disruptions.
We emphatically call on the Government of Iran to immediately lift restrictions intended to disrupt or prevent their citizens from accessing and disseminating information online and from communicating safely and securely. Moving forward, we also call on Iranian authorities to refrain from imposing partial or complete Internet shutdowns and blocking or filtering of services and to respect Iran’s international human rights obligations, including under articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
We continue to stand in solidarity with the Iranian people in their call to exercise their rights to freedoms of opinion and expression, both online and offline.