Elon Musk to deploy Starlink internet in protest-stricken Iran
Elon Musk has decided to contribute his two cents to widespread protests that have been rocking Iran for more than a week. After the Iranian government's decision to cut off internet access to many of its citizens on Wednesday, the SpaceX CEO has appeared as a savior with his satellite-based Starlink service. Musk indicated, via a tweet, that SpaceX is deploying Starlink in Iran.
Why does this story matter?
- The death of a young woman—who allegedly violated the hijab rule—in police custody has provoked a strong reaction from the Iranian public.
- Cutting off internet services is "how to deal with protests 101." That's what the Iranian government decided to do as well.
- It seems that Starlink has come to the rescue of internet freedom in yet another emergency-stricken region, after Ukraine and Tonga.
Anti-government protests have been rocking Iran for over a week
The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody has led to widespread anti-government protests all over Iran. According to officials, around 35 people have lost their lives in clashes. In response to the protests, the Iranian government restricted internet access to its citizens. Restrictions and government crackdowns are yet to stop protests against the hijab and the lack of basic freedom in Iran.
US lawmakers urged Treasury Department to permit Starlink in Iran
On Tuesday (September 20), Musk tweeted that he would seek exemptions from the US government's sanctions on Iran to provide Starlink's service in the Islamic republic. After this, a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Claudia Tenney and Tom Malinowski appealed to the US Treasury Department that if SpaceX submits such a request, the agency should approve it.
'Activating Starlink': Musk
The US government has also decided to issue a "general license" to all service providers who seek to provide internet in Iran. Under the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's tweet announcing the same, Musk replied, "Activating Starlink." A US State Department spokesperson later said that "anyone who meets the criteria" for the general license can proceed with activities.
US government eases sanctions to advance internet freedom in Iran
Activating Starlink …— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 23, 2022
Government open to SpaceX's request for any specific license
In response to questions about whether SpaceX would need special permissions to deploy Starlink services in Iran, the US State Department said that it would welcome any such requests. The spokesperson said, "OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) would welcome it and prioritize it."