Iranians deserve basic rights to privacy, speech

The political climate in Iran has been tense since last June’s election, and government security has been even tighter surrounding the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. However, Iran took its safety measures to a whole new level last week. In response to threats about the opposition staging mass protests on last Thursday’s holiday, the Iranian government took extraordinary steps, including shutting down citizens’ access to Gmail, aiming to replace the ubiquitous e-mail service with a nationalized — and obviously closely monitored — e-mail service. Furthermore, the government removed satellite dishes from residential homes, severely restricting outside communication.

This is hardly the first of time the Iranian government has taken authoritarian actions. Prior to this, the government had been ruthlessly imprisoning people and even sentencing them to death for protesting the results of last year’s allegedly rigged election. The government has also been cracking down on activists, as if to root out all opposition by ruling with an iron fist.

The news of the Iranian government’s oppressive measures is outrageous. It is shocking and saddening to us that today, a time in which democracy is a prevalent and popular idea, dictatorships still have power. What’s more, the government is stripping Iranians of their means to fight back — be it their jobs, their e-mail service, or their lives. The citizens are being threatened from every direction.

While shutting down Gmail may be successful in cutting communication among protesters, and between them and the outside world, it is hardly a sensible course of action. By revoking the Iranians’ access to communication channels, the government has violated not just their freedom of choice, but has also curbed their freedom of speech. These are basic human rights: privileges that belong to every individual and should, under no circumstance, be revoked.

We greatly disapprove of the Iranian government’s course of action, not just because of the violence that it perpetuates against opponents, but also because of the inequality behind its actions.