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Iranian Satellite Jamming Causes Storm Of Controversy

By Frud Bezhan, RFE/RL

The Iranian regime has long used signal jamming to disrupt the flow of information into the Islamic republic, but it couldn't have forecast the strategy's deadly consequences. Satellite-jamming technology is being blamed for disrupting Iran's ability to predict a major dust storm that hit Tehran in June, killing five people.

A dust storm engulfs Tehran on June 2. The storm killed five people, injured several dozen more, and knocked out power to around 50,000 homes in the Iranian capital.
photo by Alireza Hakimifard, Etemaad daily

In a report presented to parliament this week, the Iran Meteorological Organization claimed it was unable to forecast the massive dust storm because of signals emitted by jamming devices, according to the semiofficial ISNA news agency on July 22.

In addition to the five killed, the June 2 storm injured several dozen people and knocked out power to around 50,000 homes in the capital, according to Iranian media reports.

ISNA quoted Iran Meteorological Organization official Ahad Vazifeh as saying that pertinent authorities had been warned of the effect of jamming signals on meteorology forecasts before the deadly storm hit Tehran.

Iran has been known to use jamming technology to prevent satellite transmissions of foreign-based television and radio channels.

The government seems to intensify its jamming efforts during sensitive times, such as the widespread protests that followed Iran's 2009 presidential election, and the Arab Spring revolutions.

Iranian officials have acknowledged that signal jamming takes place, and have even warned of potentially negative consequences, including health dangers posed by signal jamming.

In February, the Iranian Health Ministry set up a committee to investigate whether the government's jamming of satellite signals could pose a health risk to citizens.

Frud Bezhancovers Afghanistan and the broader South Asia and Middle East region. Send story tips to

Copyright (c) 2014 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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