News ID: 261913
Published: 0303 GMT November 22, 2019

Iran begins reconnecting internet after shutdown over fuel protests

Iran begins reconnecting internet after shutdown over fuel protests

Political Desk

Iran says it foiled 'world war'

Iran began restoring internet access in the capital Tehran and a number of provinces on Thursday, news agencies said, after a five-day-long nationwide shutdown meant to help contain violent protests against fuel price hikes.

Telecommunications minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said that connectivity had returned in some provinces but did not give a date for full coverage.

"Other places will also be reconnected" upon orders of the Supreme National Security Council, said Azari Jahromi, adding the ministry was still assessing damage done to businesses.

Fars News Agency quoting unnamed informed sources said that “the internet is being gradually restored in the country.”

Fars quoted the sources as saying the National Security Council that had ordered the shutdown approved reactivating the internet in “some areas and, according to reports so far, fixed line internet has been restored in Hormuzgan, Kermanshah, Arak, Mashhad, Qom, Tabriz, Hamadan and Bushehr provinces, and parts of Tehran”.

NetBlocks, a website that monitors net shutdowns, showed Iran's connectivity to be at only 14 percent at mid-Friday.

News agencies and residents said only fixed line internet, not mobile internet, was partially restored.

The spokesman for Iran's Assembly of Experts called on authorities to keep "foreign networks" blocked after reconnection, saying they were "teaching people to riot, to commit crimes".

"If you are going to open it, I ask you to not fully open it," said Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami in a Friday prayer sermon broadcast live on national television.

The assembly is an elected council of clerics that elect Iran's Leader and oversees his work.

Protests began on Nov. 15 in several provincial towns after the government announced gasoline price hikes of at least 50%. They spread to 100 cities and towns and turned bloody.

Authorities said at least five people, including members of the security forces and policemen, were killed in street violence, which Iran blamed on “foreign foes”.

Officials said some of the protest leaders in which police stations were attacked, gas pumps torched and shops looted had been arrested.

Amnesty International said that more than 100 demonstrators were believed to have been killed and the real death toll could be as high as 200. But Iran’s UN mission on Wednesday dismissed the casualty report as “speculative, not reliable”.

Khatami has accused foreign powers of stoking the unrest and singled out the United States "as the leader of the wickedness".

The US "confessed to it, and unfortunately France and Germany went along too", he said.

Khatami said "the black regime of Saudi Arabia... also helped both with money and by providing media" coverage, and urged the Saudi people to "rise up" and no longer be "lackeys" of the US and Israel.

Addressing recent riots during a speech, Iran’s Judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi said those "who have abused the concerns and troubles of the people in order to create disorder and insecurity" will face severe consequences.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran is known as the safest country in the region due to the sacrifices of our martyrs and our wounded," he said.

"We will never allow the smallest breach in the security of our people," he added.


US threats of sanctions

Iran on Wednesday summoned the Swiss ambassador, whose country represents US interests in Iran, to protest Washington’s interference in the Islamic Republic’s internal affairs.

Markus Leitner was summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry to receive an official protest note regarding the US expression of support for the fuel unrest.

US President Donald Trump accused Iran of blocking the internet to cover up "tragedy".

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened to impose even more sanctions on Iran over the country’s handling of the recent riots, even though the unrest is believed to be the result of Washington’s unilateral sanctions.

He also urged Iranians to send "videos, photos and information documenting” Iran’s handling of the unrest.

The European Union called on Iran to show "maximum restraint" in dealing with protests.

Iran reacted by accusing the EU of interference and asking it "to explain why it doesn't keep its promises" to help bypass US sanctions that have plunged Iran's economy into recession.

“What should be noted concerning Iran in the first place is Europe’s accountability for its lack of commitment and refusal to uphold its nuclear obligations [towards the country], as well as its joining the United States in acts of bullying through the sanctions and economic terrorism, which Washington has employed against the Iranian people,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyyed Abbas Mousavi said.

However, instead of minding its obligations vis-à-vis Tehran, Europe resorts to intrusive remarks and “crying crocodile tears in defense of hooligans and those destroying public and private property and facilities in Iran.”

Washington last year withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers and reimposed the sanctions on Iran, including vital sectors such as oil, banking and tech.


Iran’s complaint



Iran has filed a complaint to British authorities over "the conduct of Hostile Farsi (media) networks such as BBC Farsi, Iran International and Manoto" based in London, its ambassador to the UK said.

Their reporting amounted to "biased distortion of the recent events in Iran and calling for widespread violence against Iranian civil institutions" Hamid Baeidinejad tweeted.

On Thursday, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps praised the armed forces for taking "timely action" against "rioters" and suggested that calm had been restored.

The IRGC said that during the unrest, "incidents ... caused by the rise in gasoline price took place in (a little) less than 100 cities".

The "incidents were ended in less than 24 hours and in some cities in 72 hours" as a result of the "armed forces' insight and timely action", it said.

The "arrest of the rioters' leaders has contributed significantly to calming the situation," it said.

The IRGC’s deputy commander said there was disappointment in Washington when the recent violent riots in Iran that sought to take advantage of protests ended within 48 hours.

"Based on information we have received, the Americans have gone mad that the riots were over within 48 hours and are disappointed that there is no more disorder in Iran," Brigadier General Ali Fadavi said on Friday.

Fadavi said that in numerous calls with other IRGC officials in the country no further riot attempts had been reported.

"Attacking homes, shops, hospitals, banks and gas stations is a malicious act which is not an act of protest nor rioting, but an act of thievery," Fadavi said.

"This is the difference between protest and disorder," he said.

The IRGC deputy commander added that peaceful protests were "natural" given the recent price hike and that the government has to adopt additional measures to reduce pressure on the general population.

Fadavi added, however, "The fact that the malicious actors of the world are targeting Iran in issues that are by no means related to them is a matter to note."


‘A full-fledged war’

The Basij volunteer force said the unrest amounted to a "world war" against Iran that was thwarted, pointing the finger of blame at Washington, Riyadh and Israel.

"A full-fledged world war against the system and the revolution was born and fortunately the child died at the moment of birth," said Brigadier General Salar Abnoush, a deputy head of the Basij.

Abnoush said interrogations had revealed a "coalition of evil" made up of "Zionists, America and Saudi Arabia" was behind the "sedition".

The internet cut had helped "disrupt the complicated" plans by Iran's enemies, Abnoush said.

On Thursday, national TV showed thousands marching in pro-establishment rallies in a dozen cities, carrying national flags and signs with slogans including “Rioting is not protesting”.

In an effort to mitigate the higher fuel costs, Iran as of Monday started paying out cash handouts to 40 million people, with 20 million more set to be paid on Saturday, local media said.

Monthly handouts – ranging from 550,000 rials ($4.64) for individuals to slightly more than 2 million rials ($17) for families of five and more – are to be financed via revenue generated from a reduction in gasoline subsidies.

AFP, Reuters and Press TV contributed to this story.



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