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The implications of Iran’s internet shutdown

Iran's internet blackout continues to suppress the protesters's voice after gas price hike-November 2019
Iran's internet blackout continues to suppress the protesters's voice after gas price hike-November 2019

Analysis by PMOI/MEK

Iran, November 22, 2019—On the second day of popular uprisings triggered by the sudden price hike of gasoline, terrified by news of the protests spreading across the world, the Iranian regime shut down internet communications across the country. The internet blackout is largest of its kind in the Iran’s history and comes at a great cost to the country’s economy.

But the fact that the regime was willing to pay such a heavy price to shut down the voice of the people reveals a lot about its desperate situation. It also proves that the regime is neither able to solve the people’s problems, nor does it have the capacity to contain the unrest and suppress the protests, a reality that is becoming more evident with every passing day.

 

The heavy economic costs of shutting down internet in Iran

According to the state-run Entekhab website, “Evaluations show that, if the internet blackout shutdown continues, the damages will exceed the benefits of increasing the price of fuel. Estimates show that in four days, the [internet blackout] has dealt approx. $1.5bn (approx. 180tn rials) in damages to the country’s economy, and in the first three days, it has caused 9tn rials (approx. $75mn) damage to online businesses.”

Clearly, the scale of the damage dealt by the internet outage did not surprise the regime. But why did it decide to carry out with the plan to shut down the internet and continued it for such a long period?

The real answer is that the regime is truly afraid of its downfall, which is long overdue. And that’s why it does whatever it can to prevent news of the protests from spreading across the world, hoping against hope that it will be forgotten and allow the regime to suppress the people with wild abandon without the world finding out about its crimes.

On November 18, Iranian regime communications minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said to a reporter, “Obviously, the [internet shutdown] has caused severe damage to businesses and the people, but preserving the security of the country with the guidance of the Supreme National Security Council is really important.”

What Jahromi means by “preserving the security of the county,” of course, is to prevent the downfall of the mullahs’ regime by cutting the protesters’ communications among themselves and their link to the world outside Iran.

Iranian regime Minister of Information and Communications Technology Azari Jahromi with former IRGC commander

Iranian regime Minister of Information and Communications Technology Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi with former IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jaffari

 

 

Salar Abnoush, a commander of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), spelled out the regime’s fear even more clearly on November 19. “There was incredible coordination during the protests. They were just waiting for a spark to destroy the entire country. Further information will be revealed after the arrested confess,” Abnoush said. Complaining that Iran’s internet was shut down with delay but helped disrupt communications between protesters, Abnoush added, “We had seen miracles in the revolution and during the sedition, but this sedition was of a different scale… as a person who was on the ground, I believe that God saved us.”

But contrary to Abnoush’s remarks, his regime is far from being saved, because it decided to continue the internet shutdown despite the heavy economic implications. Even Iranian officials declared internet access would be restored, connectivity has only reached 10 percent of its full capacity.

 

The preplanned shutdown of Iran’s internet

According to network experts, the complete shutdown of internet is technically involved and very complicated. The Iranian regime had planned for the internet blackout one-and-half year in advance. This means that the regime’s officials knew that it was only a matter of time before the simmering rage of the Iranian people would boil to a burst.

Also, the political price of the Iran’s internet blackout is no less than the economic costs. Presently, even though the flow of information coming out of Iran has slowed to a trickle, the internet shutdown has proven to the world that the Iranian regime is very unstable and is incapable of dealing with the protests.

In the past years, the regime has gone to great lengths and spent huge sums on creating a popular image of itself. But all that investment went up in flames as soon as it decided to shut down the voice of the people by imposing a total internet blackout.

As U.S. President Donald Trump said, “Iran has become so unstable that the regime has shut down their entire Internet System so that the Great Iranian people cannot talk about the tremendous violence taking place within the country. They want ZERO transparency, thinking the world will not find out the death and tragedy that the Iranian Regime is causing!”

 

 

The social impact of Iran’s internet blackout

In addition to international reactions, Iran’s internet shutdown has had a deep social impact, negatively affecting the everyday lives of millions of Iranian people and further causing outrage at the regime. According to the regime’s own media, “There are 200,000 online retailers on social media. With the current internet blackout, their businesses have come to a halt.”

According to an estimate by NetBlocks, an organization that tracks internet connectivity across the world, the first four days of Iran’s internet outage have yielded $1.478 billion in damage.

Some of this damage has come down on the regime’s own institutions, further causing tensions between Iranian officials.

On November 21, the state-run Resalat newspaper mocked the promises of Hassan Rouhani, the regime’s president, and wrote, “The question is, why so many broken promises? Are we aware of the destructive implications of not keeping promises to the people?”

Resalat adds, “Isn’t it better to tell the people that the government can’t solve some problems, especially during special periods?”

But the real question is, will the internet blackout shut down the protests altogether? Will it make the world unaware of the crimes that are happening in Iran? Will it restore the security that regime officials cherish so much?

The answer is that the internet shutdown is like applying a Band Aid to a large gaping wound. It will only make the wound fester. Both the people and the regime use the internet and shutting it down will further exacerbate economic problems.

And as far as Iran’s protesters and rebellious youth are concerned, they know that removing this regime is up to them and their organized resistance movement. So with or without internet access, they will continue their struggle for the overthrow of this regime.

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