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Amid Growing Protests in Iran, U.S. Lifts Sanctions to Allow Elon Musk to Activate Starlink Internet Satellites


On Friday, the United States Treasury Department under Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen issued guidance that expanded the range of internet services available to Iranian citizens despite American sanctions on the country. Following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, ordinary Iranians took to the streets in Tehran and all over the country, calling for the end of Islamic rule and the downfall of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The latest move by the Department comes as Americans, celebrities, former government officials, and human rights activists joined to call on the Treasury to allow Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites in Iran, granting protesters in the country internet access. 

After the regime shut down the country’s internet service, activists started a change.org site, calling on Elon Musk to send Starlink to help Iran, receiving around 3,774 signatures.

According to reports, Treasury officials stated that the latest actions would help Iranians access tools used to circumvent state surveillance and censorship. The move, however, would not prevent Tehran from using communications tools to quash dissent, as it did by cutting off internet access for protesters in the middle of the week. In a statement to media outlets, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo stated that “as courageous Iranians take to the streets to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, the U.S. is redoubling its support for the free flow of information to the Iranian people.”

“With these changes, we are helping the Iranian people be better equipped to counter the government’s efforts to surveil and censor them,” said Adeyemo. The deputy also added that the federal government would continue to issue new measures against the Islamic government soon.

For his part, Elon Musk said on Friday that he would activate Starlink’s satellite internet service. Responding to a tweet from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Musk stated that he is “Activating Starlink,” generating praise from many on social media for his actions. Many Iranian experts argue that with the latest measures from the U.S. Treasury Department and Elon Musk that ordinary Iranians will have the ability to share their protests and chants, receiving support from people all over the world.

In response to the actions by the U.S., Iranian Minister of Communication and Technologies, Isa Zarepour, told reporters in Tehran that the satellite network must be enacted within the framework of the country’s laws. Minister Zarepour stressed that any operator company can legally provide internet in Iran only within the guidelines of the country’s laws and that it is “not possible to provide internet to Iran through ‘Starlink’ satellite network soon.”

Amid the ongoing protests, Iran’s government under President Ebrahim Raisi, has responded by deploying security forces to arrest, torture, and kill protesters on the streets using live ammunition and brute force. Officials from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) have come out with statements denouncing the protests as being orchestrated by “foreign services” and promising to send troops to put down protesters.

Although it is difficult to obtain an official death count, reports currently indicate that more than 50 protesters have been killed in the last eight days of protests. 

In his speech to the United Nations (U.N.), Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi refused to mention the protests and condemned the U.S. and Israel for their “hypocrisy on human rights.” When asked by reporters about the death of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old who died after receiving beatings when she was in police custody for not wearing her hijab properly, Raisi refused to answer the questions, arguing that the protesters were creating chaos and havoc in Iran. Raisi said he spoke to Amini’s family, offering his condolences and vowing to launch an investigation into the matter.

However, according to Amini’s father, the Iranian authorities have lied to him and the entire family, claiming that his daughter died from a “heart attack.” Currently, Iranians are still protesting throughout the country, with men and women burning hijabs, chanting Mahsa Amini’s name, fighting security forces, and tearing down posters of Raisi and Khamenei.

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