The implementation of this project will kill one million jobs, including those of many women heads of households
On July 28, 2021, the clerical regime’s parliament, in a closed session, approved the “plan to protect the rights of users in cyberspace.” Contrary to Article 69 of the regime’s Constitution, the plan to block the Internet is modeled on countries such as China and North Korea to restrict free access to the Internet.
According to Article 9 of the plan, a working group consisting of military and security institutions is responsible for the Internet. By launching the pilot plan, the regime wants to deceive the people and filter the Internet messengers.
The plan to block the Internet will lead the community to use internal platforms and domestic social media and stop foreign platforms presently used by the public.
The deliberate filtering of foreign platforms and disconnecting people from the global Internet violate the Iranian public’s fundamental rights to access the free flow of information and protect their legitimate freedoms and privacy.
Ali Rabiee, the spokesperson for Hassan Rouhani’s government, said, “There are more than a million jobs on Instagram alone.” (The state-run Bahar news website – July 28, 2021).
Thus, in Iran’s miserable economic conditions and the Coronavirus epidemic, the plan to block the Internet will lead to the unemployment of many whose jobs are on the Internet, for which the government has no alternative.
Destroying the jobs of many women heads of households
There are 4 million women heads of households in Iran, only 18% of whom have jobs. Due to the clerical regime’s discriminatory policies against women’s employment, many of them work from home and on the Internet. Their number has increased after the Coronavirus outbreak. They often work on Instagram because of the simplicity of working in this social environment.
With the plan to block the Internet, many women heads of households will lose their businesses.
The Plan to Protect the Rights of Cyberspace Users violates the rights of Instagram and WhatsApp social media users.
These facilities have given women heads of households a limited opportunity to sell and make a living there.
The limited work opportunities in cyberspace have helped women heads of households compensate for some of the real-life restrictions on women in Iran.
During the eight years of Rouhani’s tenure, the government did not approve any new plan to create jobs or facilitate employment for this deprived and poor sector.
Coinciding with the inauguration of Ebrahim Raisi, the adoption of the plan to block the Internet will destroy many jobs on the Internet.
Tayyebeh Siavoshi, a former MP, revealed that the parliament adopted the plan “abruptly and secretly” under Article 85 and in a “non-transparent” fashion.
The plan deals “an irreparable blow to the small and informal businesses of women in Iran,” Siavoshi added. She pointed out that the plan could “eliminate entrepreneurial groups that work as cooperatives, urban and rural micro-agricultural funds, or assist women heads of households.” (The state-run ISNA news agency – August 01, 2021).
Social media facilities for women heads of households
The population of women heads of households in Iran has increased 26 percent between 2011 and 2019, according to Tayyebeh Siavoshi. Many of these women do not have a permanent government-paid income, and most of them have low literacy or none at all.
After the Coronavirus outbreak during the pandemic, which brought restrictions on the sale of homemade products on the streets, women have significantly become dependent on doing business on the Internet, especially on Instagram.
Working on Instagram is simple, so women with low literacy can quickly work in this social space and launch small businesses. They sell their homemade products, including food items, clothing, and handicraft, in the Instagram market.
Meanwhile, the Iranian domestic social media have not provided one-hundredth of the economic support Instagram delivers for local communities. Despite receiving considerable aid and loans from the country’s budget, the domestic media have not provided a space where people could easily do business. (The state-run ISNA news agency – August 1, 2021)
Women heads of households also do a lot of business in WhatsApp. They will also lose this facility if the plan to block the Internet is implemented. Many of the business networks are interrelated. The project will stop the chain of activities, dealing a heavy blow to the businesses of women heads of households since they will also lose the money they spent to publicize their business on Instagram.
Even if the domestic networks succeed in replacing the foreign networks, it will take years for people to find back their clients. It is not sure what percentage of the new clients will be willing to deal with them on the Iranian domestic networks since the Iranian regime monitors people’s private affairs and life.
The plan to block the Internet, another step to escalate repression
The mullahs’ supreme leader has resorted to further escalation of repression to counter the outbursts or social discontent and successive uprisings in Iran. The plan to block the Internet is one such solution.
For the people of Iran who live under repression, the Internet is a place to express their opinion. They also post images of people’s suffering and news of anti-regime protests. They also follow up on the uncensored news.
This is why the clerical regime restricts or blocks access to the Internet at times of the outbreak of protests, such as in November 2019 and during the recent uprising in Khuzestan over water shortages. In this way, the regime prevents people from sending news of the protests and receiving support and solidarity from other cities.
The international community must not remain silent on the violation of the most basic human rights of the Iranian people, including their free access to the Internet.
The Women’s Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran urges the international organizations advocating human rights to condemn the clerical regime’s attempt to block the Internet and stand by the people of Iran, and especially women, who are the prime victims of the mullahs’ unpopular and misogynist policies.
They should refer the Iranian regime’s dossier of violations of human rights to the UN Security Council.