Iran limits internet access as authorities brace for fresh protests


Shops destroyed during demonstrations against petrol price hikes are pictured on November 20th in Shahriar, west of Tehran. [Atta Kenare/AFP]

Shops destroyed during demonstrations against petrol price hikes are pictured on November 20th in Shahriar, west of Tehran. [Atta Kenare/AFP]

Iranian security forces are bracing for renewed protests Thursday (December 26th) as protestors called for commemorating those killed during the crackdown on protests across the country last month.

A wave of internet outages was imposed in Iran on Wednesday, ILNA news agency reported, as the authorities beefed up the presence of security forces and riot police in the streets.

The cut came on the orders of security authorities, the news agency said, citing what it called an informed source at Iran's information and communications technology ministry.

"This restriction on internet access solely includes international traffic of mobile phone lines," the source was quoted as saying.

It also excluded what the source called "internal traffic", indicating only domestic websites would be accessible.

AFP correspondents in Tehran reported disruptions on Wednesday to internet connections and other related services.

NetBlocks, a website that monitors international internet outages, also reported the disruptions, tweeting that there had been "evidence of mobile internet disruption in parts of #Iran" since 6:30 a.m.

At least 304 people were killed in Iran during a three-day crackdown against protests in November, according to a new Amnesty International report published December 16th.

The rights group had earlier estimated 208 deaths, including two youths aged 15 and 17.

The days of unrest in Iran from November 15th saw police stations attacked, shops looted and banks and petrol stations torched as authorities imposed a week-long internet blackout.

Videos that have surfaced since purport to show scenes from the crackdown that followed, including footage of security forces firing at unarmed demonstrators or beating them with batons.

The US, France and Germany have all condemned Iran over the bloodshed.

Family of killed demonstrator arrested

On Tuesday, Iran arrested the family of a young man killed in the protests last month, Mehr news agency reported.

The family of Pouya Bakhtiari, who was "killed suspiciously during the recent riots", had been invited for talks with authorities, Mehr said, citing what it called an informed source.

They were found to have been "carrying out a counter-revolutionary project" and "anti-structural activities", said the agency, which is close to conservatives in Iran.

"Consequently, these elements were arrested by a judicial order in order to protect the order and the security of the honourable people and others damaged by the rioters," it said without specifying which family members were taken into custody.

Bakhtiari was reportedly killed in Karaj city, west of Tehran. He was 27.

His Instagram account, which is now reportedly run by his father, announced that a ceremony marking 40 days since his death would be held at Karaj cemetery on Thursday.

The account was still active with more than 19,000 followers on Tuesday.

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