Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is asking Iranian protesters to send the U.S. any photos or videos of violent abuses committed by the Islamic Republic, with a pledge to use the evidence as the basis for new sanctions.
Pompeo made the request on Thursday night on Twitter, in both Farsi and English, following a government crackdown on demonstrations that began last week. He directed protesters to a secure messaging service to send any documentation of abuses.
I have asked the Iranian protestors to send us their videos, photos, and information documenting the regime’s crackdown on protestors. The U.S. will expose and sanction the abuses. https://t.co/korr5p0woA
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) November 21, 2019
Tehran has imposed a media and communications blackout on its residents in response to mass protests that started last week following a sharp increase in gas prices and fuel rationing. The protests quickly spread to more than 100 parts of the country, with reports of violence and property destruction.
Netblocks.org, a civil society group that maps internet freedom, said connectivity in Iran has increased to about 15 percent but still constitutes a “near-total” blackout since it was imposed five days ago.
Human rights groups have said at least 100 people have been killed by Iranian security forces, but believe that number to be much higher because of the information blackout. Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported that at least 1,000 people have been arrested and blamed Western influence in stoking the unrest.
The State Department directed Iranians with documented evidence of abuses to send their evidence through Telegram, a secure messaging service app.
Iranians must use special applications on smartphones or computers, called virtual private networks, to get around state censorship of social media sites like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.
Iranian leaders, however, regularly post on Twitter in English, including verified accounts for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
It’s unclear if protesters are receiving the messages from the State Department on Twitter or if other means are being used to communicate.