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Iran leads world in internet restrictions for 2023, followed by India, Pakistan

There has been a surge in internet restrictions in the Islamic Republic in the first half of this tumultuous year.
ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images

Iran topped the list of countries that imposed the highest number of internet restrictions in the first half of this year. Much of the disruption happens during protests, according to new data.

According to figures from cyber security company Surfshark, Iran took the lead globally with 14 new restrictions, followed by India with nine and Pakistan with three. Protests were identified as the main driver of the shutdowns.

Surfshark spokesperson Gabriele Racaityte-Krasauske said that it was "deeply concerning" to see Iran's surge in internet restrictions, particularly following the death of Mahsa Amini and the Zahedan massacre. Amini was a 22-year-old woman who died in a hospital in Tehran in September 2022 under suspicious circumstances. Iran’s morality police had arrested her for not wearing a hijab in accordance with government standards. Eyewitnesses who were detained with Amini say she was severely beaten by police and her death sparked widespread protests against the Iranian government.

Later that month came the Zahedan massacre, a series of violent police crackdowns on protesters that saw at least 96 demonstrators killed and 300 wounded. The killings took place in Iran's southeastern city of Zahedan, which is home to the ethnic Balouch community who are followers of Sunni Islam, under the Shiite-led central government.  

Around that time, Iranian authorities imposed more internet blackouts to make it harder for activists to meet and plan demonstrations. "These restrictions severely limit people’s ability to spread information to the rest of the world, organize protests and contact friends and loved ones,” said Racaityte-Krasauske.

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