Women-led protests in Iran have entered day eleven. The anti-government protests were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman arrested for violating the Islamic hijab dress code. In response, the Iranian government is violently trying to stop the protests and it has also shut down internet access across the country to prevent civilians from sharing videos of the human rights violations that are taking place. Blocking local internet and cellular access also inhibits larger groups of Iranians to plan protests with larger crowds. On September 23rd, the U.S. Treasury Department adjusted sanctions to help Iranians evade online surveillance and censorship by allowing American telecommunication services in Iran. SpaceX founder Elon Musk was the first to offer Internet service from the Starlink satellite constellation.
SpaceX rapidly activated Starlink satellites over the country, according to Karim Sadjadpour, a Senior Fellow at Carnegie Endow for International Peace and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University. "I spoke w/[ith] Elon Musk about Starlink in Iran, he gave me permission to share this: 'Starlink is now activated in Iran. It requires the use of terminals in-country, which I suspect the [Iranian] government will not support, but if anyone can get terminals into Iran, they will work,'" shared Sadjadpour via Twitter on September 24. SpaceX operates approximately 3,000 Starlink satellites in Low Earth Orbit that beam internet data directly to user terminals on Earth. The terminals are pizza-sized phased array antennas that just require electricity and a clear view of the sky to enable wireless access to the World Wide Web.
The U.S. President Joe "Biden administration officials are open to helping get Starlink terminals to Iran but there are two main challenges, financial and logistical. It will cost many millions of dollars to setup and sustain thousands of Starlink terminals to Iran. This challenge is surmountable," said Sadjadpour. "The bigger challenge is logistic. Musk [SpaceX] and the USG [U.S. Government] have sent more than 15,000 Starlink kits to Ukraine, but Ukraine's government is a close ally and eagerly cooperated. Iran's regime wants to keep the Internet off so it can repress people in the dark," he said.
"This challenge should also be surmountable, but will require not only the active support of the USG and Starlink, but would also greatly benefit from the help of brilliant Iranian-American tech minds in Silicon Valley and elsewhere (many of whom are friends with Elon Musk)," stated Sadjadpour. "The best way the US can help Iranians is to inhibit the Iranian regime's ability to shut off the Internet and prevent them from connecting with one another and the outside world. The last time Iran's government did this they reportedly killed 1500 people," he wrote in a Twitter Thread, linked below.
Biden administration officials are open to helping get Starlink terminals to Iran but there are two main challenges, financial and logistical. It will cost many millions of dollars to setup and sustain thousands of Starlink terminals to Iran. This challenge is surmountable.— Karim Sadjadpour (@ksadjadpour) September 25, 2022
Featured Image Source: NASA / The Persian Gulf from Space.