The Iraqi government continues to block social media websites in all governorates amid mass demonstrations in the country. This is despite the partial return of internet service in the capital Baghdad and the southern governorates.
Despite the intermittent return of the internet service, the blocking of social media websites continues in all governorates of Iraq, except the Kurdistan region, according to Anadolu Agency, citing its correspondents and Internet users in Iraq.
“Over the past three days, the Internet service has been partially returned for a few hours and then cut back by the evening, but social networking websites remain blocked,” the sources said.
When the Iraqi government started blocking Facebook, Iraqis rushed to download applications to bypass the block. This includes virtual private networks (VPN) that allow access to servers outside Iraq, while others used satellite communications at a very high cost.
The cybersecurity organisation Netblocks said the almost complete internet service cuts imposed by the state in most regions severely limit “media coverage and transparency about the ongoing crisis.”
The Iraqi government cut off Internet access in the country simultaneously with the mass protests against it, which started a week ago and which were met with hostility.
A week ago, protests and popular demonstrations started from Baghdad, in demand of better public services, more job opportunities and fighting corruption, before spreading to the southern governorates with a Shiite majority.
Demonstrators demanded the ousting of the government led by Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi after the security forces resorted to violence to contain the protests. However, the protests’ pace has significantly decreased since Tuesday to become limited mainly to Sadr City, east of Baghdad.
Last Sunday, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said that 104 people were killed during the demonstrations, including eight security and police officers, while medical sources said, Tuesday, that at least 165 people were killed in the protests.
The Iraqi authorities have admitted using excessive violence against protesters, pledging to hold those responsible accountable. They have asserted that it is currently in the process of making reforms to meet the demonstrators’ demands.