‘Working to keep Iranian friends connected’: WhatsApp as Iran blocks social media

As anger at the death of a woman detained by the morality police fuelled protests in Iran, the administration blocked access to social media platforms. On Thursday, WhatsApp, in a statement, said that it is working to keep “Iranian friends connected”.

People light a fire during a protest over the death of Mahsa Amini in Iran’s Tehran. (Photo: Reuters)

The Iranian government blocked access to social media platforms amid protests over the death of a woman in police custody for not wearing hijab properly. In a statement, WhatsApp said on Thursday that the company is working to ensure users in Iran are connected.

WhatsApp said, “We are working to keep our Iranian friends connected and will do anything within our technical capacity to keep our service up and running.”

READ | Anti-hijab protests spread in Iran, death toll rises as internet curbed

Further, the company stated that they exist to connect the world privately. “We stand with the rights of people to access private messaging. We are not blocking Iranian numbers,” it said.

Iran on Wednesday restricted access to Instagram and WhatsApp, two of the last remaining social networks in the country, after anger at the death of a woman detained by the morality police fuelled protests.

Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old from Iranian Kurdistan, who was arrested in Tehran for unsuitable attire, died in police custody. Her death unleashed anger over issues including freedom and rights in the Islamic Republic.

The protests spread across the country with women coming out on the streets and demonstrating against morality policing. Women waved and burned their veils and some cut their hair in public.

After the protesters were seen defacing or burning images of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and late Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani, authorities shut down internet phone networks and access to social media.

ALSO READ | Iranian woman chops hair in protest against Hijab as people blow horn in support

Thereafter, WhatsApp users alleged they could only send text, not pictures. The tech company stated that they are working to keep “Iranian friends connected”.

It’s the most widespread unrest in Iran since November 2019 protest, over increase in fuel prices led to internet shutdowns and deaths of hundreds of protesters.

ALSO READ | Anti-hijab protests rock Iran over Mahsa Amini’s death in custody

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