Iranian authorities are facing another challenge, after weeks of violent protests in the country following the death last month of 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini in police custody.

Iranians activists are smuggling SpaceX Starlink broadband satellite terminals into the nation, as Tehran restricts internet access amid the ongoing protests.

Earlier this week Iran’s Nuclear Power Production and Development company was hacked, and an Iranian hacking group, Black Reward, claimed responsibility. It released the hacked nuclear data as an act of support for ongoing protesters in Iran.

Image credit: SpaceX

Starlink in Iran

The protests centre on Mahsa Amini, who died last month whilst in the custody of Iran’s morality police.

Eyewitnesses said that Amini had been severely beaten, which Iranian officials denied. They allege she died of a heart attack.

Amini’s death triggered a wave of protests across Iran, with some female demonstrators removing their hijab or publicly cutting their hair as acts of protest. It is reported that 201 people have been killed by Iranian security forces.

Amnesty International alleged that Iranian security forces were, in some cases, firing into groups with live ammunition, and in other cases were killing protesters by beating them with batons.

Now Iranian political activist Karim Sadjadpour, senior fellow of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, tweeted how for more than a month, activists have sent dozens of Starlink terminals into Iran.

Sadjadpour also noted “Iranian popular demand for unfettered Internet access is enormous,” but iPhones, satellite dishes and alcohol are all prohibited. Indeed the latter two are said to be criminal offences.

Sadjadpour said in his thread that Elon Musk has been gracious with his support.

In September Sadjadpour had tweeted that he had spoken with Elon Musk who revealed that Starlink had been activated in Iran.

Ukraine situation

This development comes after CNN reported last week that senior US officials in the Biden administration were in talks with Elon Musk about providing Starlink’s broadband service, in order to support activists in Iran.

This was part of a White House effort to push more connectivity into the isolated nation.

It should be remembered that in early March as Russia invaded Ukraine, Musk activated SpaceX’s Starlink satellites for the country, to help Ukraine continue communicating, as Russian forces sought to cut electricity, water, and Internet in the sovereign nation.

Musk also donated 25,000 Starlink stations and terminals to Ukraine, and offered with advice to reduce the risk of the terminals being targetted by Russian missiles.

Image may be subject to copyright

But Musk has also courted controversy recently over Ukraine, after he was heavily criticised for suggesting that Ukraine could “de-escalate” the conflict by ceding Crimea to Russia and allow Russia to carry out referendums in partially occupied areas in order to annex those territories.

Musk then suggested he was prepared to pull the plug on Starlink in Ukraine, saying Starlink’s Ukrainian project was losing $20 million (£18m) a month.

A day later he backtracked, and said he would continue funding Starlink satellite broadband in Ukraine.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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