Access to Instagram and WhatsApp have been restricted in Iran following escalating “anti-hijab” protests which have now entered the sixth day.
The protests were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, who was said to have been arrested on September 13 for not wearing a proper hijab.
According to the BBC, the 22-year-old Amini died three days after her arrest and detention, and during her funeral, protests broke out.
Prior to the latest restrictions, Twitter and Facebook had been banned in Iran.
Netblocks, an independent non-partisan global internet monitor, also confirmed network restrictions.
“Users have also reported the disconnection or severe slowing of internet service in multiple cities since the first disruption was registered on Friday 16 September 2022,” NetBlocks said.
Also, WhatsApp, owned by Meta, has reacted to the reports of restrictions of its service in Iran.
“The core of our mission is to connect people privately. We are not intentionally disrupting access to our platform, nor are we blocking Iranian numbers. We do everything in our technical power to maintain our services and enable the use of all users in the world,” WhatsApp tweeted on Thursday.
⚠️ Confirmed: Messaging app #WhatsApp has been restricted in #Iran amid widening protests over the death of #MahsaAmini; metrics show WhatsApp servers now disrupted on multiple internet providers, hours after the restriction of Instagram
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) September 21, 2022
According to a BBC report, Amini, a Kurdish woman from the north-western city of Saqez, was arrested by the morality police after she was accused of breaking a law requiring women to cover their hair with a hijab or headscarf.
She was said to have fallen into coma shortly after collapsing at a detention centre.
According to a statement by the United Nations (UN), Nada al-Nashif, UN high commissioner for human rights, has called for an investigation into the death of the 22-year-old, adding that there are reports that she was beaten on the head with a baton.
“Mahsa Amini’s tragic death and allegations of torture and ill-treatment must be promptly, impartially and effectively investigated by an independent competent authority, that ensures, in particular, that her family has access to justice and truth,” Al-Nashif said.
“The authorities must stop targeting, harassing, and detaining women who do not abide by the hijab rules.”
The police have denied that the deceased was mistreated and said she suffered “sudden heart failure”.
But her family insists that she was in good health before the arrest.
The compulsory dress code for women, which requires them to wear a headscarf and loose-fitting clothes, came into effect in Iran after the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Meanwhile, the “morality police” in the country are responsible for enforcing strict adherence to the dress code.
Amid the restrictions to social media platforms, there have been videos of women burning their hijabs, while some have cut their hair in protest.
According to the Iran human rights organisation, as of Thursday, there have been “mass arrests”, while at least 31 civilians have been killed over the protests.
See some tweets on the protests below.
Iran: Women cutting their hair in protest to Mahsa (Zhina) Amini’s death, 22-y-o Kurdish woman who died on 16Sep after going into a coma in police custody, arrested over “violating” Islamic hijab rules. (@ShinD1982, @negarkardan) #MahsaAmini #مهسا_امینیpic.twitter.com/kV7mIqLKX2
— Khosro Kalbasi (@KhosroKalbasi) September 18, 2022
— Hamid Azad (@HamidAz17344424) September 22, 2022