Tehran: After Iran's government ordered to restrict the use of social media amid the ongoing protests over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, WhatsApp on Friday said that it has not blocked Iranian contacts and is working to ensure that Iranian friends stay connected.
"We are trying so that our Iranian friends can stay in touch with each other and we do not hesitate to do anything within our means to keep our communication services continuously active," WhatsApp said in a series of tweets. It said that access to private and confidential means of communication is the right of all people, and so it has not blocked the phones in Iran.
"Our main goal is to provide the possibility of confidential communication anywhere in the world. We believe that access to private and confidential means of communication is the right of all people. We have not blocked the phones related to Iran. "
"We exist to connect the world privately. We stand by the rights of people to access private messaging. We are not blocking Iranian numbers. We are working to keep our Iranian friends connected and will do anything within our technical capacity to keep our service up and running," the tweet added.
As per Al Jazeera, Iran has shut down Internet services across the country since protests erupted over the death of Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody after her arrest for allegedly failing to comply with Iran's strict rules on women's dress by wearing an "improper hijab".
The ongoing protests intensified on Wednesday when demonstrators hurled stones at security forces. The protestors burned vehicles and chanted anti-government slogans as the oppression of strict dress codes for women continued in Iran.
Citing the Iranian state media, CBS reported that police used tear gas and arrests to disperse crowds of up to 1,000 people on Wednesday as street rallies spread to 15 cities.
Meanwhile, the UN experts on Thursday strongly condemned the death of Mahsa Amini. They called on Iranian authorities to hold an independent, impartial, and prompt investigation into Amini's death, saying that the use of physical violence against women and the denial of fundamental human dignity when enforcing compulsory hijab policies ordained by state authorities is shameful.
In a press statement, the UN Human Rights Office said the experts also denounced the violence directed against peaceful protesters and human rights defenders demanding accountability for Amini's death in cities across the country by Iranian security forces.
"We are shocked and deeply saddened by the death of Amini. She is another victim of Iran's sustained repression and systematic discrimination against women and the imposition of discriminatory dress codes that deprive women of bodily autonomy and the freedoms of opinion, expression and belief," the experts said.
Amini fell into a coma at the detention centre and died in hospital on September 16. Iranian authorities said she died of a heart attack, and claimed her death was from natural causes. However, some reports suggested that Amini's death resulted from alleged torture and ill-treatment, the experts said.
Following the protests, prolonged Internet disruptions have been reported in Tehran, Kurdistan provinces, and other parts of the country since September 19. This is the third widespread Internet shutdown recorded in Iran over the past 12 months, according to the UN Human Rights Office.