Iran threatens protesters, clamps down on social media

The Iranian government restricted access to social-media apps used by protesters for communication and warned those involved in the nationwide demonstrations will “pay the price” after three days of unrest.

Instagram and Telegram have been temporarily “restricted.” Social media has been vital resource for Iranians participating in the protests – described as the largest public display of discontent since the 2009 Green Movement in Iran.

While independent media coverage from inside the country has been limited, protesters have used apps like Telegram, which offers public channels for users in addition to encrypted messaging, to share information and videos of protests and clashes.

Earlier on Sunday, the Iranian Interior Minister Rahmani Fazli issued a stern warning that protesters will “pay the price” after the demonstrations turned deadly. He said the misuse of social networks by some individuals “are causing violence and fear,” and that “such behavior will be smashed,” according to IRNA, Iran’s official news agency.

Two people were killed Saturday during protests in Doroud city, in the Lorestan province of western Iran, according to semi-official news agency Mehr News.

Several videos circulated on social media showed various people injured during protests in the city. The videos purportedly showed injured people lying on the ground and being carried away from the protest, as well as being treated in a local hospital. In some of the video, gunshots can be heard.

In a rare display of public dissent, some protesters directed their ire at Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, according to some videos on social media. In another video also circulating on social media, Iranians can be overheard chanting “We don’t want an Islamic Republic” and “Death to the dictator.” The video purports to show demonstrators in the western city of Khorramabad.

President Donald Trump has voiced his support for anti-government protesters in several tweets throughout the weekend, sparking a war of words with the Iranian government.

“Big protests in Iran,” the president wrote Sunday morning. “The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer.”

Earlier, Trump tweeted: “Oppressive regimes cannot endure forever, and the day will come when the Iranian people will face a choice. The world is watching!”

On Saturday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi pushed back against earlier U.S. comments, saying the Iranian people gave no credence to such “opportunistic” remarks by Trump or his administration.

Iranian officials have pointed to foreign intervention as being behind the protests.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador the U.N., added her support in a statement on Sunday, saying “our hopes and prayers” are with people suffering in “oppressive governments in North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, and especially in Iran, where the long-repressed Iranian people are now finding their voice.”

“The Iranian government,” she said, “is being tested by its own citizens. We pray that freedom and human rights will carry the day.”

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