UN expresses concern following wave of street protests in Iraq
With secret satellites, pricey messages abroad and clandestine file transfers, young Iraqis are circumventing an internet blackout aimed at stifling bloody protests for six days in the capital and beyond.
The United Nations is urging authorities in Iraq to allow citizens to exercise their right to freedom of expression after the security forces opened fire on mass anti-government protests which began earlier this week.
The UN human rights office, OHCHR, said reports indicate that up to 100 people have been killed and over 4000 are being injured in demonstrations across the country.
Authorities restricted access to Facebook and Whatsapp after anti-government demonstrations began, before ordering a total network shutdown.
The termination of Wifi, 3G and 4G access left protesters with just regular phone calls and mobile messages — a few notable exceptions aside.
Iraq is the latest country to be rocked by protests. Since June, thousands of people in Hong Kong have been protesting against plans to allow extradition to China, while Haiti has been engulfed in anti-government protests, which escalated in recent weeks.
Images of young men and women marching towards the emblematic Tahrir Square flooded social media the first day, using the hashtag #save_Iraqi_people.
When restrictions on Facebook began, Iraqis acted quickly; many downloaded virtual private network (VPN) applications.
Others even began surreptitiously posting the details of the next protests in the comments section of Cinemana, a popular streaming service in Iraq.
But those avenues were shut off by the systemic shutdown.
Those that could afford to therefore erected costly satellites on their rooftops to get a window into the outside world.