Of all the countries so far listed in our guides Iran has by far the most belligerent government; which doesn’t bode well for their internet freedoms.
Violence and oppression have marred Iran’s history over the last quarter of the 20th century up until today. In 1979 the Iranian Revolution took place. Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi was overthrown despite support from the United States by a mixture of secular and religious groups. On April 1, 1979, a national referendum made Iran an Islamic Republic, their new Supreme Leader was Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The new governing strategy was based on Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists. Essentially this means that Iran’s governing bodies and those in high-ranking positions must be clerics. Although Iran’s revolution was itself peaceful as far as revolutions go, the following decades have seen tremendous bloodshed.
The Iran-Iraq War was fought between September 1980 and August 1988. Estimates of casualties range from hundreds of thousands to millions. Following the stalemate, Iran’s government executed thousands of political prisoners who had sided with Iraq. Such repression of dissent has continued to this day. Iran kills more people than any other country in its region. Punishments are often disproportionate to the crimes and are direct consequences of a theological-authoritarian ideology.
Iran as an international hacker
Iran is one of the largest countries in the Middle East. With natural reserves, that could have made it one of the most prosperous. Iran’s complicity in the high-power games of espionage and international war have brought decades of sanctions- crippling the economy and bringing the country to a point of ruin in many places.
Aside from exporting terrorism, the government has been linked to the Khobar Towers bombings, the US Embassy, and barracks bombings. Heading up this continuing mission is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
In addition to asymmetrical warfare Iran has burgeoning cyber warfare capabilities. Partly in response to the devastation Stuxnet caused to their nuclear facility in Natanz in 2010. In August 2014, an Israeli Defence Force official told the press that Iran has been launching multiple significant attacks on Israel’s infrastructure. Turkey has also been hit- in March 2015 44 of the country’s 81 provinces had no power for 12 hours.
Iran VPN usage is growing exponentially
Freedom House, a Washington-based NGO-think-tank, gave Iran a score of 87 in its 2015 Freedom on the Net report, the second-worst score on the list. China has the dubious honor of being first the worst.
Iran’s ruling powers are hardline fundamentalists who are desperate to keep control over what their citizens can freely consume and do. Iranian ISPs have to follow certain rules that make censorship and content blocking possible. Internet speeds are bound by legislative regulations to 128kbit/s.
Getting round this is done through the use of a VPN. By changing the location of your IP address, you skirt around some of the stupid laws endorsed by nation-states. Boop. Tor is a very popular tool in Iran; an estimated 50,000 users love dem onions.
In 2014 35% of global internet users between 25-34 year olds and 26% between 35-44 used a VPN or proxy server to go online. The main reason? To access geo-blocked social platforms or media. (Statistica)
No surprise then that Iranian VPN usage is amongst the highest in the world. Iran’s population is active on many social media websites. A thriving Facebook group called See You In Iran promotes travel to the country and is just one of many Iran-specific examples of why you shouldn’t judge a country by its government.
So when you visit Iran be sure to a) clean your computer, or just don’t take it b) use a VPN to get online. Iran VPN connections need to be as secure as possible, so it is worth checking out something beyond a free client.