News / Middle East

Iranians Face New Internet Curbs Before Election

Technicians monitor data flow in the control room of an internet service provider in Tehran, Iran, Feb. 15, 2011.
Technicians monitor data flow in the control room of an internet service provider in Tehran, Iran, Feb. 15, 2011.
Reuters
Iranians are struggling with slower Internet speeds and limited access ahead of an unpredictable presidential election that has put hardline Islamist authorities on alert for possible unrest.
 
Experts and Web users say they believe the Internet obstacles are related to the June 14 presidential vote, the first since 2009 polls in which accusations of fraud - denied by the government - kindled months of protests organized in part via social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
 
Iranian officials denied any connection between the Internet disruptions and the upcoming vote. But, after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad four years ago, they are wary of the possibility of further unrest this time around.
 
The last-minute entries of moderate former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad ally Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie have shaken up what was expected to be a limited race between  hardline conservatives close to clerical Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and hostile to Ahmadinejad.
 
The populist Ahmadinejad, who has fallen out with Khamenei, is limited by law to two consecutive presidential terms.
 
Iran's Guardian Council was due to present a final list of approved candidates to the Interior Ministry on Tuesday. The ministry then has two days to announce the approved names.
 
The opposition website Kaleme reported on Monday that security had been heightened in Tehran, apparently to counter any protests should the candidacies of Rafsanjani or Mashaie be rejected by the council.
 
Iranian web users, who number some 45 million according to official figures, have grappled with increased obstacles to using the Internet since the 2009 election.
 
Kaleme said on Monday Internet speeds had dropped in much of Tehran and that in some parts of the capital, accessing the Web had become impossible - which would prevent dissidents from mustering protests online as they did after the 2009 vote.
 
Hamed, 33, a dissident freelance journalist living in Tehran, said his clients now have resorted to sending him files by loading them onto CDs and transporting them by courier.
 
“We get things done but with more time spent,” Hamed told Reuters via email.
 
International websites blocked
 
Many Iranians used Virtual Private Network (VPN) software to bypass the government's extensive web filter. But the government blocked access to most VPNs, which make computers look as if they are located in another country, in March.
 
Since then, experts said, Iranians have faced slower access to encrypted international websites using the Secure Sockets Layer protocol, with addresses beginning with “https”, such as Google Inc.'s email service Gmail, and this could push them to resort to unencrypted sites easily watched by the state.
 
“SSL services are being throttled by the government to create a system of incentives or coercion not to use them,” said Collin Anderson, a U.S.-based Internet researcher who focuses on Iran. “That affects Gmail and pretty much anything that you want a layer of security on.”
 
A similar Internet blockade was put in place in February 2012, ahead of parliamentary elections.
 
Several Iranian Web users said they have had trouble accessing their Gmail accounts in the last three weeks. Elham, an Internet user from the northeastern city of Mashhad, told Reuters that since late April, any VPN she tries to use only works for about two minutes before she is disconnected.
 
She and Hamed declined to be fully named for fear of repercussion for speaking to a foreign reporter.
 
One man in his 30s who works at an Internet Service Provider (ISP) company in Tehran confirmed that most VPNs were down and those still up were crashing within two minutes.
 
He added: “Fewer and fewer people are using Twitter in recent days which shows their problems accessing the net.”
 
Iranian officials denied any link between the disruptions and the election. “Numerous parameters contribute to the speed of the Internet and the approach of elections will not have any role,” Ali Hakim Javadi, head of Iran's Information Technology Organization, told ISNA news agency.

You May Like

Hostage Crisis Could Divide Japan Over Plans to Boost Military

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday the government is working closely with the Jordanian government to secure the release of remaining Japanese hostage Kenji Goto More

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Country's youngest ever PM Alexis Tsipras, 40, sworn in Monday and says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts More

Multimedia National Geographic Photo Camps Empower Youth

Annual mentoring program's mission is to give young people a voice to tell their own stories through photography More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid