Iran blocks WhatsApp, Instagram as ‘anti-hijab’ protest escalates

Iran blocks WhatsApp, Instagram as ‘anti-hijab’ protest escalates
Image: AP/Unsplash

Access to Instagram and Whatsapp have been restricted in Iran due to escalating “anti-hijab” protests, which are now on their sixth day.

The protests were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, who was arrested on September 13 for failing to wear a proper hijab.

According to the BBC, Amini, 22, died three days after her arrest and detention, and protests erupted during her funeral.

Prior to the recent restrictions, Twitter and Facebook were prohibited in Iran.

Netblocks, a non-partisan global internet monitoring service, also confirmed network restrictions.

“Users have also reported the disconnection or severe slowing of internet service in multiple cities since the first disruption was registered on Friday 16 September 2022,” NetBlocks said.

In addition, WhatsApp, which is owned by Meta, has responded to reports of service restrictions in Iran.

“The core of our mission is to connect people privately. We are not intentionally disrupting access to our platform, nor are we blocking Iranian numbers. We do everything in our technical power to maintain our services and enable the use of all users in the world,” WhatsApp tweeted on Thursday.

According to the BBC, Amini, a Kurdish woman from the northwestern city of Saqez, was arrested by morality police for violating a law that requires women to cover their hair with a hijab or headscarf.

She was said to have gone into a coma after collapsing at a detention facility.

According to a UN statement, Nada al-Nashif, the UN high commissioner for human rights, has called for an investigation into the 22-year-death, old’s adding that she was beaten on the head with a baton.

“Mahsa Amini’s tragic death and allegations of torture and ill-treatment must be promptly, impartially and effectively investigated by an independent competent authority, that ensures, in particular, that her family has access to justice and truth,” Al-Nashif said.

“The authorities must stop targeting, harassing, and detaining women who do not abide by the hijab rules.”

Police have denied that the deceased was mistreated and have stated that she died of “sudden heart failure.”

Her family, however, maintains that she was in good health prior to her arrest.

Following the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran imposed a mandatory dress code for women, requiring them to wear a headscarf and loose-fitting clothing.

Meanwhile, the country’s “morality police” are in charge of enforcing strict adherence to the dress code.

In response to the restrictions on social media platforms, there have been videos of women burning their hijabs and others cutting their hair in protest.

According to the Iran human rights organisation, there have been “mass arrests” as of Thursday, with at least 31 civilians killed as a result of the protests.