Riots lead to internet shut-off as unrest grows in Iran

Internet returned to Tehran on Friday night, but outside the Iranian capital large parts of the country remain in the dark.

Major cities Isfahan and Shiraz have now gone around almost a full week without access to the web, following Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s internet crackdown in response to nation-wide demonstrations against increases to petrol prices.

Blackened, burnt out and destroyed banks and petrol stations are a common sight across the country, as protesters sought to demolish anything state-owned. Riot police are on guard at any stations left serving LPG gas, with queues to fill up cars stretching to over a kilometer long, causing chaos on the roads.

With the majority of the state-run major media outlets insisting that everything is running smoothly, Iranians have turned to word from friends and family for news. Wild rumours began to circulate in recent days, ranging from U.S President Donald Trump promising to provide internet for the entire country to conspiracy theories regarding hiding a nuclear missile accident being the real reason for the blackout. With no internet to refer to, many of these stories gained serious traction across the country.  

Death tolls too, are the subject of much debate. The Iranian government insist the Amnesty International number of 106 is ‘fabricated’, but have admitted that several deaths have occurred. The number circulating on Wednesday in southern parts of the country was that 20 had perished in just Shiraz the day before; the figure for the rest of the week and country was thought to be much more.

Pro-Government parades were organized across the country on Thursday, which is the weekend in Iran. A large contingent of police and snipers from rooftops were on hand at the events, which were made up of pro-Khamanei supporters holding a variety of signs including many with anti-American slogans. But according to some in the Shiraz, those attending the parade included a large contingent of paid Government workers.

The current Government has been attempting to unite its disgruntled people with anti-American sentiments since Donald Trump pulled out of the landmark nuclear deal last year. Various depictions of the United States as an evil force can be found in billboards, posters and flyers across the country. This is especially the case in Tehran, where one subway station features a pop-up gallery of anti-American artwork.

While demonstrations aren’t exactly rare in the Islamic Republic, there is a feeling among Iranians that there is more noise this time around. The protests are the talk of the nation, with several groups of the usually politically independent nomads travelling down from the mountains to participate in demonstrations.

There is a growing feeling on the streets is that the current Government may not make it to the Persian New Year (March 31). What will happen after that, no-one seems to know.

“Whatever happens, it is better than this” said one Shirazi resident, who wished to remain anonymous.  

“It has been bad before, but not this bad. 

“We need a change, I hope it comes peacefully”.

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