Iranian People in Danger after Being Denied Capital Internet Access

On September 16, 2022, a 22-year-old Iranian woman, Masha Amini, died in police custody following her detainment due to “improper” wearing of her hijab. While the Iranian authorities reported that Masha passed away due to a heart attack, her father says she was beaten to death in custody and died from a coma three days later.  

After decades of subjugation for Iranian women, Amini’s death has sparked worldwide protests and conversations about women’s rights and the Iranian regime. Young Iranian women– despite the dangerous consequences– are courageous enough to protest in cities throughout Iran and demand justice for Masha and an abolishment of the hijab rules altogether. These protests have unfortunately led to dozens of Iranian women being killed and arrested by the Iranian regime. 

The protests didn’t only stop in Iran; Masha Amini’s death triggered international condemnation, with protests in parts of Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and New York City. Women worldwide are standing in solidarity with Masha, demanding an end to these compulsory rules and calling for a fair investigation of Masha’s death. 

In lieu of the recent criticisms of the Iranian government and in an attempt to suppress anti-government rallies, authorities denied citizens capital internet access. The government has gone as far as restricting popular Western social media platforms, such as Instagram, Tiktok, and Whatsapp, which are often used to communicate with friends, family, and strangers across the globe.  This authoritarian response to anti-government protests interferes with people’s right to freedom of expression and assembly, protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

The Iranian constitution provides the public with an abstract understanding of freedom of expression and the press. Article 24 of the Iranian constitution states that: “Publications and the press have freedom of expression except when it is detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam or the rights of the public. The details of this exception will be specified by law.” While freedom of the press and expression may seem protected under the law, the latter half of Article 24 allows the Iranian government to ultimately decide what constitutes under the category of “detrimental” to the principles of Islam. 

It is important to note, though, that Article 35 of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), to which Iran is a signatory, clearly affirms that state parties are required to notify “such action to each of the other Member States through the Secretary-General,” if the Member State (Iran), chooses to suspend international telecommunication services. The Iranian government has been prohibiting access to the free flow of information via satellite television, referred to as “satellite jamming,” a violation of Article 15 of the Radio Regulations of the International Telecommunications Union. Additionally, Iran signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, which they are deliberately infringing on, amidst the internet shutdown.

The deliberate interference from Iran on its satellites is a clear violation of International law and the ITU.  Iranian authorities must stop this unacceptable jamming and appeal to international regulatory bodies; all stakeholders need to intervene in order to put an end to this behavior. Is open connectivity access becoming a debatable human right? Is denial of capital internet access and murder a normal consequence for alleged “improper” wearing of a hijab? 

The ITU must keep the Iranian government accountable. Iranian women, in addition to being treated as second-class citizens, are now unable to share their stories. The social stigma and legal consequences for men of authority who have committed gendercide are treated as insignificant. As a result, misogyny, ferocity, and intolerance have been normalized in the Iranian government. In honor and in memory of Masha and the women of Iran, it is the duty of women worldwide to speak up for those whose voices and bodies have been repressed.