By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL
Severe Internet disruptions and increased censorship have been reported in Iran this week by Iranians who have complained on social media websites and via messages and telephone calls to RFE/RL’s Persian Service, Radio Farda.
Many Iranians have been claiming that their access to social networks and Internet-based e-mail sites has been blocked in recent days.
They say their access to Google services has been blocked and that they haven’t been able to access other sites like Facebook even with the usual antifiltering software.
The reason for the disruption is not clear. It could be an attempt by government authorities to prevent a planned silent protest that has been called by the opposition Green Movement for February 14.
The Green Path of Hope coordination council issued the call to mark the anniversary of a protest last year, which attracted tens of thousands of people and led to the house arrest of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi.
Iran has disrupted the Internet before ahead of planned opposition demonstrations.
There is also speculation that the blackout is related to the government's plan to launch a national Internet, which it reportedly has been testing for months.
Iranian officials have said that the national network will be launched soon, amid concerns that it will cut off Iranians from the World Wide Web.
Whatever the reason for the increased censorship, it has upset many.
An Iranian man who left a message on RFE/RL’s voice mail system described the disruption he has experienced:
“I’m a resident of Bandar Abbas, it’s the third day that it has been impossible to access my Gmail. My friends are facing the same problem. No one is giving us a straight answer. They just say it will soon be resolved.”
Another man, Amin, claimed via e-mail that he hasn’t been able to access Facebook or his Yahoo mail even with "the strongest antifiltering tools."
"This demonstrates the degree of freedom we enjoy here; we can’t even check our e-mail," he said.
Another man called to ask for help in bypassing the tightened controls:
"We’re getting close to the anniversary of [Iran’s 1979 revolution] and Iranian telecommunication officials are becoming increasingly worried, and they've blocked all https and everything else. We cannot access any website anymore. I hope we get some help from [the outside]."
The Internet disruption has also been acknowledged by some websites inside Iran, including "Tabnak," which has called on authorities to tell citizens why they can't access Gmail and other Internet-based e-mail programs.
Iranian officials have had no comment on the reports.
Copyright (c) 2012 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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