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Tesla CEO Elon Musk plans to provide Starlink satellite internet to Iran after authorities shut down services amid protests over the death of a 22-year-old in police custody.
Internet access watchdog Netblocks confirmed blocks to apps such as WhatsApp and Instagram along with at least two major mobile networks in the country.
The restrictions come as the Iranian people demonstrate against the death of Mahsa Amini, who was detained by Iran’s morality police for not covering herself enough with a hijab.
Protests are sweeping Iran & women are burning their hijabs after the death last week of Mahsa Amini, following her arrest by the “morality police”. Human rights groups say at least 8 have been killed. Last night, I planned to ask President Raisi about all this and much more. 1/7— Christiane Amanpour (@amanpour) September 22, 2022
She passed away on September 16 after being admitted to hospital by police three days earlier and placed into a coma. She was allegedly being beaten by authorities.
Iranian officials maintain she had suffered an unrelated heart attack.
As activists clashed in with police in the days following, Iran’s Telecommunications Minister Issa Zerepour warned of internet restrictions due to the ‘security issues of these days’, according to Daily Mail.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk has since claimed that he wants to be exempt from such sanctions to provide Iran with his Starlink satellite internet.
Efran Kasraie, who describes themselves as a Persian-language journalist, tagged Musk in a tweet, asking: “I'm sure you won't answer it Mr Musk, but is it technically possible to provide Starlink to Iranian people? It could be a game changer for the future.”
The billionaire replied: “Starlink will ask for an exemption to Iranian sanctions in this regard.”
Starlink will ask for an exemption to Iranian sanctions in this regard— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 19, 2022
SpaceX has been expanding access to the high-speed internet service of SpaceX for several years now - most notably making it available to Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.
With protests raging on and at least eight activists killed in the streets of Iran, as per Daily Mail, internet access provides an important tool to spread the message and news to the outside world.
Women in Iran are tearing off their mandatory headscarves, with videos showing some throwing their hijabs into a bonfire.
The scenes in Iran are astonishing. How far will these protests go?— Frida Ghitis (@FridaGhitis) September 20, 2022
Meanwhile, the United States Secretary of the Treasury has been urged by a group of lawmakers to allow Musk to operate in the heavily sanctioned country.
A letter was penned by several lawmakers, such as New York Republican Claudia Tenney, and New Jersey Democrat Tom Malinowski.
As per Bloomberg, they wrote: “If such a license request [from Musk] is submitted, we urge you to approve it immediately.”
They also asked for the Treasury to clarify its policies for providing access for communication in sanctioned countries.
In a statement, Tenney said: “Congress is calling on the Treasury Department to do everything in its power to help the Iranian people stay connected to the Internet.
“We need to cut through any bureaucratic red tape and get this done.”