Why Can Iraq Shut Down the Internet?

Countries Mar 16, 2021

Although Iraq hasn't such strict Internet censorship as in Iran or Saudi Arabia, it is still present. The government reserves the right to restrict Internet access and leave residents without the Internet altogether.

For example, in 2019, tens of millions of residents of Baghdad, Basra, Karbala, and other cities were not connected to the global network. It is noted that the disconnection of the Internet has become the largest in the country. The restrictions did not affect the territory of the Kurdish settlements in the north of the country.

On October 1, anti-government protests began in Iraq against poor living conditions, unemployment, and corruption. Protest participants demanded Adil Abdul-Mahdi's government's resignation. In several places, including the capital, the demonstrations that began peacefully turned into riots and clashes with the security forces.

The country's authorities have taken strict measures to suppress the protests. For a short time, access to Facebook and other social networks was blocked. On October 2, the Internet was completely blocked in Baghdad. During the protests, the demonstrators communicated with each other via SMS.

The Iraqi government cut off the Internet to stop residents from broadcasting ill-treatment during the protests. The Iraqi authorities denied information about using weapons against the demonstrators. But Iraqi activists have managed to shoot videos that suggest otherwise.

The Internet connection was generally restored only by October 11. During the riots in Iraq, more than 300 people died, and about 15,000 were injured. It was reported that the shutdown of the Internet during mass protests cost Iraq almost $1 billion.

But as long as the Iraqi government controls communications networks, massive Internet outages cannot be prevented.