Iraq claims internet block was technical issue, protesters skeptical

Local sources in Baghdad and southern provinces of Iraq on Monday said access to the web had been temporarily restored after blockages in response to protests that have entered their second week with casualties numbered at the hundreds.
author_image Kosar Nawzad

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Local sources in Baghdad and southern provinces of Iraq on Monday said access to the web had been temporarily restored after blockages in response to protests that have entered their second week with casualties numbered at the hundreds.

Demonstrators accuse the Iraqi government of deliberately cutting access to the internet in efforts to censor those who broadcast their protests on Facebook and Twitter.

Baghdad declared a state of emergency on Saturday and called for more troops to locations where the protests were most intensive and were experiencing escalating violence.

“This could be one of the ways that the Iraqi government tries to deprive protesters of the social media networks which are used to communicate and publish footage of demonstrations from the province,” one of the organizers of the Basra protests told Kurdistan 24 on Saturday.

The government blocked all internet services in southern Iraq and Baghdad, including social networking sites and messaging applications in the Kurdistan Region and central provinces.

Residents and witnesses told Kurdistan 24 that internet services were back at 11:00 p.m. on Sunday in Baghdad and surrounding areas.

Internet disruptions in Iraq continued for almost 30 hours.

Despite the partial return of the internet, many users cannot access Facebook and other applications without using special programs to bypass blockages of the apps.

“Internet services have been restored...temporarily,” Ministry of Communication spokesperson Hazim Mohammad Ali said in a late-night statement on Monday.

Ali claimed the government had not blocked the internet; instead, stating the blockage was caused by technical difficulties.

“The resumption [of operations] will be experimental as a result of the repairs of open circuits [in wires] that led to the interruption of the service.”

Protesters, however, say they are skeptical of Baghdad’s explanation and insist the service was cut because of the demonstrations.

Iraqis have been protesting for over a week across cities in the south against a lack of basic services and rampant corruption in the oil-rich country.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany