Not for the first time, Iran is reportedly stepping up its website-blocking efforts, on the eve of the anniversary of the revolution that overthrew the country’s monarchy and replaced it with an Islamic republic.
Following a period of public protests and civil resistance, the Shah left Iran for exile in January 1979, with the royal regime collapsing shortly after on February 11, when rebels overwhelmed troops loyal to the Shah. Now, as we approach the 33rd anniversary of this date, reports are starting to filter through of a widespread Web-blocking programme focusing on specific sites.
Based on some reports, websites using the secure “https” protocol are being blocked – e.g. banks – as well as Yahoo, Gmail, Google and all sites that rely on the search giant’s API – such as WolframAlpha. Sites such as BMI.ir , BPI.ir and Parsian-Bank.com are also apparently banned.
The reports suggest that the blocks are reasonably widespread and started taking effect earlier this week, covering the capital Tehran and other major cities such as Shiraz, Bushehr and Isfahan. We’ve checked at Blocked In Iran, and there’s no indication that the sites in question are blocked, however, and we would like to ask our readers in Iran to confirm on our behalf, but it seems that we are still blocked four months after we first reported this.
It’s thought that any blocks currently being enforced could continue until Esfand – next month according to the Persian calender, and long after the 33rd anniversary of the Revolution .
This is backed up through a report on Hacker News, where a source says:
“I’m writing this to report the serious troubles we have regarding accessing Internet in Iran at the moment. Since Thursday, Iranian government has shutt down the https protocol which has caused almost all Google services (Gmail, and Google.com itself) to become inaccessible. Almost all websites that reply on Google APIs won’t work.
Accessing to any website that replies on https (just imagine how many websites use this protocol, from Arch Wiki to bank websites). Also accessing many proxies is also impossible. There are almost no official reports on this and with many websites and my email accounts restricted, I can just confirm this based on my own and friends experience.”
A number of other reports gleaned from the social sphere on Iran Media Program backs these latest reports up too, with tweeters both inside Iran and out, claiming that a number of sites were being blocked:
— Amin Sabeti (@aminsabeti) February 7, 2012
Whilst many of the most popular websites such as Facebook are blocked sporadically across Iran, millions of citizens have easily bypassed the government’s increasingly effective firewall.
But the software that has enabled this to happen has recently stopped working for much of the time. And as the Washington Post reported yesterday, when it does start working again, “speeds are so excruciatingly slow that sites such as Facebook and Balatarin.com – which evaluates unofficial news and rumors in Farsi — become unusable.”
We’ll continue to monitor the situation and, if you are able to verify the current state of play in Iran, do leave a comment.