The Global Network Initiative (GNI) joins the chorus of Iranian citizens, international organizations, and other actors expressing deep concern about the widespread repression and violence being perpetrated against peaceful protesters. GNI condemns the Iranian government’s apparent efforts to stifle freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, including through disruption of information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as messaging, social media, and telecommunications services. Unfortunately, this response reflects a pattern of authoritarian behavior by Iranian authorities in response to peaceful protests and a manifestation of the oppression Iranian women have faced for decades.
Since protests began two weeks ago in response to the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in custody of Iran’s Law Enforcement Command, Iranian authorities have reacted with disproportionate force against protesters by launching a brutal crackdown comprising mass arrests, violence, and disruption of internet and mobile communications. Many Iranians have been killed, injured, and detained since the protests erupted, including a significant number of journalists, and access to vital information about the protests has been cut off. As GNI has consistently pointed out in our statements (in Farsi) and resources related to network disruptions, these disruptions have disproportionate impacts. These impacts are often extenuated and become life threatening in the context of periods of protest and instability, as they can impact individuals ability to keep themselves safe and access emergency services.
GNI stands with the courageous protesters – women, students and other Iranians who come from all walks of life to demand their fundamental liberties despite the Iranian government’s efforts to contain their voice. GNI applauds the work of journalists and activists who are working to provide vital information about the protests and responses by Iranian authorities. We also welcome steps to facilitate the availability of critical ICT products and services, including efforts to provide vital connectivity, security, and privacy-related tools and services. More effort along these lines is necessary to support the people of Iran.
Iran has repeatedly interfered with freedom of expression and privacy guaranteed to everyone in Iran under international human rights law. GNI thus calls on the government of Iran to lift restrictions and censorship measures in online and offline spaces. GNI also strongly encourages other governments, international organizations, companies, civil society organizations, and technologists to continue working together to support the ability of Iranians to exercise their human rights, including through initiatives like the Freedom Online Coalition and mechanisms like its Task Force on Internet Shutdowns.