As Iranian citizens found it nearly impossible to get online over the past week, the Islamic Republic’s leadership was using their own social media accounts to blast protesters and the so-called “outside forces” they blame for encouraging the protests.
The Iranian government imposed a near-total shutdown of the Internet amid anti-government protests which erupted over a major increase in gasoline prices.
“One of the things that we are calling on are social-media companies like Facebook and Instagram and Twitter to shut down the accounts of supreme leader [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei, the Foreign Minister [Mohammad Javad] Zarif and President [Hassan] Rohani until they restore the Internet to their own people,” said Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran.
“It is a deeply hypocritical regime,” Hook told Bloomberg News in an interview posted on the official State Department Twitter account. “It shuts down the Internet while its government continues to use all of these social-media accounts.”
Iranian officials have claimed the protests, which began on Nov. 15, have died down, but there is no way to confirm the assertion, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported on Nov. 24.
Teheran blamed the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, and “thugs” inside Iran for some of the worst public violence in the country in a decade.
The government says five people have died, but outside rights groups, including Amnesty International, put the total at more than 100.
“The regime shut down the Internet because they’re trying to hide all of the death and tragedy that the regime has been inflicting on thousands of protesters around the country,” Hook said.
The United States on Nov. 22 imposed sanctions on Iranian Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi for what it said was his role in the “vast censorship” of the Internet.