Fri, 13 Dec 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump has accused Tehran of disconnecting Iranians from Internet access to cover up dozens of killings over the past week amid protests that erupted over fuel-price hikes.

'Iran has become so unstable that the regime has shut down their entire Internet System...thinking the world will not find out the death and tragedy that the Iranian Regime is causing!' he said in a tweet on November 21.

Iranian authorities the same day restoring Internet access in Tehran and a number of provinces, reports say, as the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) said calm had returned after days of unrest over fuel-price hikes.

In a statement on November 21, the IRGC praised the armed forces for taking 'timely' action against the 'rioters,' adding that the arrest of their 'leaders has contributed significantly to calming the situation.'

Meanwhile, the semiofficial news agency Fars reported that 'the Internet is being gradually restored in the country' after authorities imposed a near-total shutdown on November 16, making it difficult to get a clear picture of the protest.

NetBlocks, which monitors worldwide Internet access, confirmed that 'some connectivity is being restored, although only partially.'

It said national connectivity has risen to 10 percent of normal levels -- compared to 4 percent two days ago.

Iran is facing growing international condemnation for its crackdown on the protests, sparked by the Iranian government's decision last week to ration gasoline purchases and cut subsidies.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights cited reports suggesting that 'dozens of people may have been killed and many people injured' and Amnesty International said at least 106 protesters were believed to have died.

Iranian officials acknowledged several deaths, including members of the security forces, and described Amnesty's figure as 'speculative and not reliable.'

They called the protesters 'thugs' and suggested the demonstrations were part of a 'plot' by Tehran's 'foreign foes.'

There were also reports saying that dozens of gas stations, banks, shops, and other public property had been damaged or destroyed by protesters.

In its November 21 report, the Fars news agency quoted unidentified sources as saying Iran's National Security Council approved reactivating the Internet in 'some areas."

'According to reports so far, fixed line Internet has been restored in Hormozgan, Kermanshah, Arak, Mashhad, Qom, Tabriz, Hamadan and Bushehr provinces, and parts of Tehran,' it said.

'We again have Internet as of an hour ago,' Reuters quoted a retired engineer as saying by telephone from Tehran.

The European Union earlier in the day said it expected Iranian authorities to restore communications and exercise 'maximum restraint' in handling the protests, saying the rights to freedom of expression and assembly 'must be guaranteed.'

Protesters should 'demonstrate peacefully,' spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said, adding that 'any violence is unacceptable.'

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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