ISSN 2330-717X

Disconnecting The Internet: A Spark In The Gunpowder Barrel – OpEd

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Speaking to the parliament on Monday, December 8, Rouhani, while presenting the budget of 2020, called for a complete shutdown of the country’s connection to the World Wide Web. 

“We will empower our national network in a way that people won’t need the foreign websites for their daily use, ” he said.

He then mentioned to the leader, saying that he has recently given the necessary orders about this problem and the Supreme Council for Cyberspace is working on it.”

Ali Khamenei compared news media to chemical weapons and said earlier on October 4, that media is an important tool but when it’s in the favor of the enemy it turns into a dangerous one. Today from television to radio, from the internet to social networks of all kinds, the cyberspace is being used against our public opinion.”

The subject of possible internet disconnection has caused a lot of reactions inside the country. Thus, the state newspaper “Jomhuri” writes, “The perpetual notion of not having access to the global Internet and using an internal network that has been mentioned through President’s remarks, has made people anxious and has received sharp reactions from social media users.”

This is why Ruhani’s agents and supporters are trying to convince the angry people that this is a misconception and his purpose hasn’t really been cutting off the Worldwide internet.

“There is a misconception from the speech,” Said Ali Rabi’i, the spokesman for Ruhani’s cabinet in a news conference the day after president’s remarks. “The problem is that in our country we do not have more than one network. It is just the national network. The Internet is also on this national network which is provided to the people. I declare that the government has no plans to cut off access to the Internet either now or in the future. Frankly, I am announcing it right now. “

The fact is that people have gotten used to these denials and they know that when the government disapproves of something, in essence, it is a confirmation of the seriousness of the case. It can be just a way to prepare public opinion.

Denying the Internet disconnection and then insisting on it

Particularly parallel to denials and disapprovals, there is also a lot of insistence, especially from some other agents of the regime, especially Khamenei’s ring who want to accelerate the Internet disconnection. They criticize why the Internet disconnection took place late during the recent uprising.

A four-member committee was formed on December 9, in the parliament “to investigate why the Internet was not cut sooner in the recent turmoil?” In this regard, they even criticized Azeri Jahromi, the Minister of Communications of the regime.

The second wave of chaos

After reconnection of the Internet, however, one of the regime’s main concerns was the reflection of the unprecedented repression and circulation of the images about their cruel repression against the Iranian people. 

“The most important thing we may encounter during the upcoming days is the widespread release of images of the past as people reconnect to the Internet,” wrote Vatan-e – Emruz newspaper on November 28, expressing concern that they shouldn’t believe this is the end of street chaos

This newspaper also mentioned, “Ignoring the likelihood of a second wave of disruptions by abusing the re-establishment of the Internet in the next days can be a potential threat. It can have widespread consequences if it is not taken care of.”

The unsolvable Paradox

It is clear that the regime has a paradox and an unresolved paradigm over the Internet. On one hand, because rebellious youths have used the Internet as an efficient tool, the government is desperately in need of cutting the Internet’s geographical reach, but on the other hand, it can be another trigger for future uprising as it happened in gas prices event.  Also, the regime itself needs the Internet to connect with the outside world and cutting off the internet beyond its heavy economic costs, it can result in political isolation following the mid-November uprising. So here we can see that the regime has been trapped in a dead-end, in which there is no way for it to escape.

Hamid Enayat

Hamid Enayat

Hamid Enayat is an Iranian human rights activist and analyst based in Europe.

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