A prominent Iranian political activist and journalist called on fellow activists Sunday to put pressure on micro-blogging giant Twitter to block the accounts of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei until internet access was restored within the country.
Masih Alinejad, well known for launching the My Stealthy Freedom movement promoting freedom for Iranian woman, said on Twitter, “I invite all activists to call on @Twitter to ban supreme leader of Islamic Republic @khamenei_ir until Internet access is restored. Without it we cannot monitor human rights violations.”
I invite all activists to call on @Twitter to ban supreme leader of Islamic Republic @khamenei_ir until Internet access is restored. Without it we cannot monitor human rights violations. #TwitterBanKhamenei https://t.co/S86jlOmdZb
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) November 17, 2019
Alinejad cited major protests in Iran that began on Saturday, in which an unverified number have been killed and national internet access restricted. An Iranian prosecutor said on Sunday that 40 protesters had been arrested in the central city of Yazd.
The current riots, which are occurring in multiple cities, are in response to Khamenei’s petrol price hikes one day earlier, which he blamed on regime “opponents.” The price of gas was raised from 10,000 to 15,000 rials per liter.
Internet blockage observatory NetBlocks said on Twitter late on Saturday: “#Iran is now in the midst of a near-total national internet shutdown; realtime network data show connectivity at 7 percent of ordinary levels after 12 hours of progressive network disconnections as public protests continue.”
Videos circulating online show rioters igniting fires, blocking roads, and chanting slogans against government officials. Iranian police are seen using batons against protesters and confiscating cameras of those attempting to document the scene. The riots are reminiscent of those in 2017-2018, in which citizens throughout the country protested the economic and theocratic policies of the regime.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus had earlier reacted to the draconian measures. “We condemn the attempted shutdown of the internet. Let them speak!” said Ortagus.
Alinejad is also the founder of the social media campaign #WhiteWednesdays, which encourages Iranian citizens to wear white as a symbol of protest against Iran’s mandatory dress code for women. She currently lives in self-exile in Brooklyn.
Just this month, Twitter suspended multiple accounts tied to the Iran-backed Hezbollah and Hamas, both of which are designated as terrorist organizations by the US State Department.
“There is no place on Twitter for illegal terrorist organizations and violent extremist groups,” a Twitter spokesperson said.
Twitter has long been criticized for allowing terrorist groups and those affiliated to operate on its platform. In October, Twitter announced that it suspended nearly 116,000 accounts promoting terrorist content.