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Home World News Washington Post World News Experts: Iran Disrupts Internet; tower collapse deaths at 36

Experts: Iran Disrupts Internet; tower collapse deaths at 36

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran disrupted internet access to the outside world as angry protesters gathered against the collapse of a tower in the country’s southwest, killing at least 36 people, experts said Tuesday as outrage and grief continued to grow.

The disruption left the province in digital isolation, making it difficult for journalists to verify events on the ground and for activists to share images and stage protests.

It’s a tactic the Iranian government has repeatedly employed in times of unrest, human rights activists say, in a country where radio and television stations are already state-controlled and journalists are threatened with arrest.

The internet outage in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan started in early May, weeks before the fatal collapse, said Amir Rashidi, director of internet security and digital rights at Miaan Group, which focuses on digital security in the Middle East. Home to an ethnic-Arab population that has long claimed discrimination, the province has been a flashpoint in protests against the declining economy and skyrocketing prices of staple foods.

Disruptions in the area then increased after the Metropol building collapsed last week, according to data shared by the Miaan Group.

The disaster sparked widespread anger in Abadan, where residents alleging that the government was negligent gathered at the site of the collapse overnight to shout slogans against the Islamic Republic. Videos of the protests are widely circulating online, with some showing officers clubbing and firing tear gas at protesters.

The images analyzed by The Associated Press matched known features of Abadan, about 660 kilometers southwest of the capital Tehran. The number of victims and arrests remains unclear.

In response to the protests, Iranian authorities have sometimes completely shut down the internet and other times have only allowed strictly controlled use of a domestic intranet, the Miaan Group reported.

During the day, authorities also seem to have limited bandwidths to make it very difficult for people to share large files, such as video, without leaving Abadan altogether, said Mahsa Alimardani, senior researcher at Article 19, an international anti-censorship organization.

Last Friday, as huge crowds took to the streets to chant to top officials, a sort of digital barricade was erected between Iran and the world, data showed. Only certain government-approved national websites can stream content, but not websites abroad.

“There’s a pattern we’ve seen when it gets dark where Google doesn’t work, but the Supreme Leader’s website works well,” Rashidi said.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to the request for comment.

Meanwhile, rescuers pulled three more bodies from the rubble on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 36, fearing more people could be trapped in the ruins. Five of the victims were school-age children, the official IRNA news agency reported. Another 37 people were injured in the collapse, two of whom are still in hospital.

Officials have attributed the building’s structural failure to shoddy construction practices, lax regulations and entrenched corruption, raising questions about the safety of similar towers in the earthquake-prone country. Authorities reported that they had evacuated residents from buildings near the crash site for fear that the remaining Metropol structure would collapse.

The mounting political and economic pressure comes as talks over the reinstatement of Tehran’s shattered nuclear deal with world powers have reached an impasse. Hostilities have flared up as Iran accelerates its nuclear program well beyond the limits of the nuclear deal and last week seized two Greek tankers on a key oil route through the Persian Gulf.

As a sign of those mounting tensions, Iran’s foreign ministry sharply criticized the International Atomic Energy Agency on Tuesday in its quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear program.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh chided the report’s findings that Iran’s highly enriched uranium stock had increased 18 times since the 2015 nuclear deal as “unfair and balanced”.

The UN nuclear watchdog also said Iran has still not explained traces of uranium particles found by IAEA inspectors at former undeclared sites in the country — long a sore point between Iran and the agency, despite a recent urging on a resolution by June.

Khatibzadeh said the agency’s statements “did not reflect the reality of the talks between Iran and the agency”.

“The agency must be vigilant and not destroy the path we have struggled on,” he told reporters in Tehran.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian addressed the stalled indirect negotiations with the United States over the collapsed nuclear deal and told reporters he communicated Iran’s concerns through a third party to Vice President Kamala Harris when she met in Munich earlier this year. goods.

Iran has repeatedly demanded guarantees that no future president could unilaterally leave the agreement, as former President Donald Trump did in 2018. The White House has said it cannot make such a commitment.

Amirabdollahian said he had asked the mediator to “tell Ms. Kamala Harris if a group of rebels is going to take over the White House, please let us know.”

“Even if rebels take over, they must abide by international agreements,” Amirabdollahian said.

The White House has not confirmed such a report.

In a recent interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, Omani Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr Albusaidi said his country was “always happy to help” when asked if Muscat was organizing new secret talks between Iran and the US. Oman hosted the secret talks leading up to the 2015 nuclear deal.

“I am hopeful that we can achieve a new dynamic to reach an agreement,” he said. “It is in the interest of our region and the world.”

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