instagram interrupted: Instagram interrupted across Iran amid protests

Iranians saw their access to Instagram, one of the few Western social media platforms still available in the country, cut short Wednesday after days of mass protests over the death of a woman who was detained by the moral police.

NetBlocks, a London-based group that monitors Internet access, has reported widespread outages. Witnesses inside Iran, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said they were unable to log in using cell phones or home connections.

There were no immediate comments from Iranian authorities on the Instagram shutdown, which would limit the protesters’ ability to organize and share information.

Iran already blocks Facebook, Telegram, Twitter and YouTube, although senior Iranian officials use public accounts on those platforms. Many Iranians circumvent the bans by using virtual private networks, known as VPNs and proxies.

In a separate development, the Iranian Central Bank website was briefly removed on Wednesday as hackers claimed to have targeted the websites of several Iranian state agencies. Subsequently, the official websites of the president and the supreme leader of Iran have been inactive.

The apparent cyber attack came amid days of protests over the death of a woman who was detained by the country’s moral police for allegedly wearing her Islamic headscarf too loosely. It was also hours before Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addressed the United Nations General Assembly.

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Central Bank spokesman Mostafa Qamarivafa denied that the bank itself was hacked, stating only that the website was “inaccessible” due to an attack on a server hosting it, in a comment reported by the official IRNA news agency. . The site was subsequently restored.

The Ministry of Culture website was also unavailable as of Wednesday afternoon.

Hackers linked to the obscure anonymous movement claimed to have targeted other Iranian state agencies, including state TV and the presidential spokesman’s office.

Iran has been the target of numerous cyber attacks in recent years.

In February, dissident hackers posted an anti-government message on a website that streams state television programs. Last year, an online group posted footage from inside Iran’s infamous Evin prison that it claimed to have acquired through hacking.

In the same year, a cyber attack paralyzed gas stations across the country, creating long lines of angry motorists unable to obtain subsidized fuel for days. The messages accompanying the attack appeared to refer to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Other attacks, which Iran has blamed on Israel, have targeted its nuclear program and industrial sites.

Iranians have been protesting for days over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old who was arrested last week by the morality police. Police say she died of a heart attack and was not mistreated, but her family questioned this, saying she had no previous heart problems and was prevented from seeing her body. .

The UN human rights office says the moral police have stepped up operations in recent months and resorted to more violent methods, including slapping women, beating them with batons and shoving them into police vehicles.

Amini’s funeral on Saturday sparked protests in the western Kurdish region, where he came from, which eventually spread across the country and reached the capital, Tehran. The demonstrators clashed with the police and sang against the Islamic Republic itself.

Raisi asked for an investigation into Amini’s death. Iranian officials have blamed the protests of unnamed foreign countries which they say are trying to foment unrest.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, made no reference to the protests in a Wednesday meeting with veterans of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war.

Iran has seen waves of protests in recent years, mainly due to a protracted economic crisis exacerbated by Western sanctions linked to its nuclear program.

The Biden administration and European allies are working to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, in which Iran curbed its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions, but talks have been stalled for months.

In his speech to the UN, Raisi said Iran is committed to restoring the nuclear deal, but wondered if it can trust America’s commitment to any deal.

Iran insists its nuclear program be for peaceful purposes. It began stepping up its nuclear activities after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 deal, and experts say he now probably has enough highly enriched uranium to make a bomb if he decides to do so.