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Who is behind the ban on Telegram in Iran?

The popular messaging app that has over 40 million users in Iran.
The popular messaging app that has over 40 million users in Iran.

An invstigative report by PMOI/MEK,

7 May 2018--“To this day, this government hasn’t blocked and will not block any social network or messaging platform,” Hassan Rouhani, the president of the Iranian regime, posted on his Instagram account on May 4. Rouhani further stressed, “The government was neither behind nor approves the recent ban on Telegram,” referring to the popular messaging app that has over 40 million users in Iran.

Rouhani’s comments come just days after the regime implemented a ban on the messaging platform. Reading Rouhani’s post begs the question, if the government isn’t blocking Telegram, then who is?

To answer this question, Rouhani writes, “To block this messaging app, on April 30, the judiciary ordered all mobile carriers and internet service providers to disrupt communications on the platform.”

Rouhani’s comments are aimed at Sadegh Larijani, the head of the regime’s judiciary branch and a rival in the power struggle at the higher echelons of power in the regime. By undercutting Larijani and vindicating himself, Rouhani hopes to gain leverage and influence.

Rouhani also indirectly attacks Ali Khamenei, the regime’s Supreme Leader the unelected ruler who has final say on all matters of state. “Even if the highest orders of power in the country decide to limit or block the people’s communications, the real owners of this country, the people, must be informed,” he writes in his comments.

However, according to Iran’s state-run media outlets, the order to block Telegram during the nationwide uprisings that took place in December and January was issued by the Head of the National Security Council. That post is occupied by none other than Hassan Rouhani.

Blocking Telegram is of paramount importance to all factions and divisions in the regime. The application was widely used by protesters and activists to broadcast pictures and videos of protests in the recent uprisings. The Iranian regime’s survival is dependent on blocking the free flow of information inside and outside of Iran. The Iranian regime’s officials have, on several accounts, lamented about how the PMOI/MEK and its network inside Iran have been able to use Telegram and other online communication platforms to organize protests inside Iran.

But the regime’s efforts to block the people’s means of communication have so far been futile. Telegram users inside Iran have resorted to virtual private networks (VPNs), proxies and other tools to circumvent the block on Telegram. According to the Alexa ranking website, 24 percent of Telegram’s visitor are from Iran.