With women’s rights at issue, hackers have disrupted the works of Iran’s Fars news agency, one of the main sources of news disseminated by the state during protests over Mahsa Amini's death, the agency reported. Iran has been shaken by numerous in country and international protests since Amini’s death while in custody on 16 September after her arrest for an alleged breach of the country's dress code for women. Iran’s first protests focused on the state-mandated hijab, or headscarf, for women, but has since transformed into one of the most serious threats to the Islamic Republic since the chaotic years following its founding in the 1980’s.
Fars said its website had been disrupted last Friday by a “complex hacking and cyber-attack operation. Removing possible bugs... may cause problems for some agency services for a few days,” it said in a statement posted the following day on its Telegram channel. “Cyberattacks against Fars news agency are carried out almost daily from different countries, including the occupied territories (Israel),” it added, without expounding on its statement.
On 21 October, a group called Black Reward said it had obtained documents related to Iran's nuclear program and demanded the release of all political prisoners and people arrested during the recent protests. After its 24-hour ultimatum expired, material on social media said to be released by the group included a short clip from a purported nuclear site in Iran, as well as documents.
On 23 November, Iran’s the Atomic Energy Organization admitted that one of its subsidiaries had been targeted by “a specific foreign country,” while downplaying the importance of the documents in question. Iran on the one side and Israel and the United States on the other have regularly accused each other of cyber-attacks.
These Iranian protests are going international in scope and are being played out at the current World Cup Games in Qatar. Iran’s women’s rights turmoil cast a shadow also over Iran’s second match at the World Cup, which by the way was on the same day as the cyber-attack, with pro-government fans harassing anti-government fans outside the stadium in Qatar.
Unlike in their first match against England, the Iran players sang along to their national anthem before the match against Wales as some fans in the stadium wept. Some Iran fans confiscated Persian pre-revolutionary Iranian flags from supporters entering the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium and shouted insults at those wearing shirts with the slogan of the country’s protest movement, “Woman, Life, Freedom.” Small mobs of men angrily chanted “The Islamic Republic of Iran” at women giving interviews about the protests to foreign media outside the stadium. Shouting matches erupted outside the security checkpoint between fans screaming “Women, Life, Freedom” and others shouting back “The Islamic Republic.”
Many female fans were visibly shaken as Iranian government supporters surrounded them with national flags and filmed them on their phones. One woman named Vanya, who lives in Qatar and is 21 years old, said she was terrified to ever go back to Iran after what she experienced outside the stadium last week. She said Iranian government supporters, “have been attacking me, they’ve been cursing at me all the way in the metro when I was getting here.” As she walked and talked on her phone, one Iranian government supporter walked behind her with an unfurled Iranian flag chanting “Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Some anti-government fans waved signs in support of the protest movement at Iran’s first match against England last week. Before that match, Iran’s players remained silent as their national anthem played. Last Friday they sang along to the anthem, as is most likely in their survival favor.
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