Net silence as Iran explodes into protest

Protests erupted in Iran Nov. 15 after the government announced a 50% increase in the price of fuel, partly in response to the re-imposition of US sanctions. Spontaneous demonstrations first broke out in Sirjan, but quickly spread to several other cities, including Tehran, where banks and petrol stations were set on fire. The regime quickly responded by imposing  a near-total shut-down of the Internet and mobile data throughout the country. Security forces have already killed several protesters, and the the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has warned of “decisive” action if the unrest does not cease. (Al Jazeera, Wired, Payvand, Jurist)

Amnesty International tweeted Nov. 18: “We’re horrified at reports that dozens of protesters have been killed in #Iran, hundreds injured & over 1000 arrested since Friday. We’re alarmed that authorities have shut down the internet to create an information blackout of their brutal crackdown. We’re investigating.”

The White House (predictably silent about the deadly repression in Bolivia) of course condemned the Iran regime for using “lethal force” against demonstrators and restricting net access. (Iran Focus) The US ambassador to Germany, Richard Allen Grenell, posing as protector of Iranian freedom, improbably boasted on Twitter: “We have the technical ability to turn the internet on for the people of Iran. And ensure it is free of government blockers. Europe and America should do it together.” (Al Arabiya)

Global oil prices remain low, but several countries around the world have seen explosions of protest over domestic fuel price spikes in recent months. If the price hike in Iran is partly an effort to ride out US sanctions, it should be noted that it comes as the regime is also taking clearly counter-productive measures. It has just exceeded the amount of heavy water that it is permitted to produce under the nuclear deal, thereby openly tempting Europe to join Washington in imposing sanctions.  (Reuters)

Eruptions of protest have been seen several times in Iran over the past months, pointing to a deepening social crisis. However, the American left, increasingly reliant on Russian state propaganda outlets as an “alternative” (sic) to the “mainstream media,” is all too likely to be squarely on the wrong side in Iran—that of state repression. Which will only abet Trump’s efforts to groom and co-opt the Iranian protesters.

Image: Hajar Morad via Twitter