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OU students to hold rally to support Iranian protests over gas prices, internet blocks

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Iran flag

The flag of Iran.

A group of Iranian OU students is holding a rally today at 12:30 p.m. on the South Oval to support protests against the Iranian government. 

Sociology graduate student Peyman Hekmatpour said in an email that these protests are taking place in Iran against the Iranian government, and that internet access blocks have been placed within the country. He said protests began in Iran on Nov. 15 after the government increased gas prices by almost 300 percent.

“So (Iranians) came out to (the) street, and they (started) protesting,” Hekmatpour said.

Over 100 protesters are believed to have been killed, according to Amnesty International. The country’s internet was shut down by the government, meaning that Iranians cannot contact people in other countries, Hekmatpour said. 

“So, basically, we don’t know what’s happening inside the country,” Hekmatpour said. “So the government can do whatever they want, and no one’s going to know.” 

Hekmatpour said he and other Iranian students were inspired by rallies in support of Iranian protesters planned for this Saturday and Sunday in major cities around the world. 

“We said, ‘OK, we cannot hold these big rallies because ... we are just students. We don’t have that kind of money. So ... let’s have a rally on campus,’” Hekmatpour said. 

The lack of internet in the country, Hekmatpour said, has also created an issue for Iranian students who want to attend OU. 

“Deadlines are coming out, so (the students) ... don’t have enough time to put together the materials ... People are asking (the) graduate college and other admission offices if they can extend the deadline for people from Iran,” Hekmatpour said. 

According to a press release from the office of Sen. James Lankford, R-OK, Lankford sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushing for additional firewall circumvention tools in response to the Iranian government’s actions. These tools would allow Iranians to access the internet even with government-imposed internet blocks. 

“From the continued suppression of internet access in China and Iran to new restrictions in Burma and Kashmir, the ability to communicate online is not available for millions of individuals who would greatly benefit from such access,” Lankford said in the letter. “All people deserve connectivity to this common resource. As the inventors of the internet, our nation should continue to lean in and lead this fight.” 

According to the release, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, which Lankford is a member of, increased funding for Global Internet Programs for fiscal year 2020 by $10 million. This brought total funding to $70.5 million. 

“Firewall circumvention technology in Iran can be a powerful tool to empower the Iranian people to exercise their God-given rights of free speech and assembly,” Lankford said in the release. “By taking steps to ensure the internet is accessible to the millions of Iranians who want it through firewall circumvention technology, our nation can continue its maximum pressure campaign against the Iranian regime.”

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