Online Businesses Call On Iran’s Gov’t To Lift Internet Ban

Iranian online entrepreneurs have urged authorities to lift restrictions on the internet, which has been almost completely shut down since anti-government protests began in mid-September.

In a letter to President Ebrahim Raisi on Sunday, over 1,200 Iranian business owners and people working in the information technology sector called for the restrictions to be lifted and for the release of imprisoned IT activists. The signatories are members of 13 associations and unions.

These activists criticized the recent disruptions and extensive restrictions and reminded Ebrahim Raisi on Sunday of his campaign pledge to offer “access to free internet”.

Since the current wave of protests began after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in custody, the government has blocked popular social media apps like WhatsApp and Instagram, as well as shutting down internet access for many hours each day to prevent the spread of information.

The signatories to the appeal also criticized the restrictions on social communications and the crackdown on activists in this area, adding that such measures had created “public discontent” and threatened the livelihoods of millions of people.

The signatories to the letter also called on the government to restore “lost public confidence” by “freeing the people who have been arrested solely for their activities in this industry.”

In addition to the arrest of many demonstrators and political activists, several well-known IT activists have been arrested in recent weeks without concrete charges.

On Monday, Kaivan Jamebozorg, a board member of Tehran’s IT union organisation, said there is currently no internet in the country but a “distorted and unstable network” that cannot be relied on for business.

He noted that the digital economy goes far beyond the contours of online businesses and has important potential as a driving force for the development of the economy in general, as well as the country’s social and cultural spheres, hence the lack of free access to the Internet and international platforms make the national network ineffective. “This network will be meaningless and useless without a stable internet and free access for people and businesses to it,” he said, referring to the government’s plans to set up a domestic intranet network under its control.

Lately, Iranian Chamber of Commerce announced that every hour of internet disruption causes economic damage of approximately $1.5 million, which equates to $36 million per day.

The lockdown-style internet shutdown has also started to show detrimental effects on several industries including food, medicine and steel production, which damages the production cycle and has its devastating effect on the livelihoods of millions.

While Iranian hardliners say restrictions on internet access will remain in place as long as street protests and strikes continueVahid Jalalzadeh, the head of the National Security Committee of the Iranian Parliament, said in October that the Islamic Republic will allow Iranians access to the internet if European countries cut off “anti-Iran” networks in cyberspace.

At the end of September, the Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the British Ambassador in Tehran over what is said to be a “hostile atmosphere” created by London-based Persian media. There are three London-based major Iranian satellite TV channels that broadcast programs to Iran; Iran International TV, Manoto TV and BBC Persian.

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee is now considering one Bill in Support of Global Internet Freedomafter Iran’s government cut access amid protests.

authorities disrupting the internet to prevent news of riots reach the rest of the country and abroad and prevent protesters from mobilizing support in nearby regions.