People across the Middle East and the world are reeling from a shocking earthquake that devastated Syria and Turkey, and greatly impacted Iraq and Lebanon.
At the same, authorities are blocking social media and messaging platforms including WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in Iraq in a misguided attempt to thwart cheating in school exams. During emergencies and crises, people need to connect to each other and access vital information — via the internet — more than ever.
Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition are calling on authorities in Iraq to immediately reinstate full internet access across the nation.
“When there’s an emergency, people need to know what’s happening around them,” said Felicia Anthonio, #KeepItOn Campaign Manager at Access Now. “After the horrific earthquake roared through the MENA region, people in Iraq have been left without a full picture of their surroundings. Authorities must keep the internet open.”
Internet shutdowns during national examinations are a disproportionate response and a human rights violation. For years, Iraq and neighboring countries have been shutting down the internet during exams, denying students and millions of others the ability to exercise their fundamental rights.
In Iraq, the internet is reportedly shut down every day for approximately eight hours, and will continue until February 13. The Iraqi Ministry of Communications has confirmed this year’s blocking is at the behest of the Ministry of Education.
“Blocking the internet is never acceptable,” said Kassem Mnejja, MENA Campaigner at Access Now. “The world needs to be connected with the MENA region right now — for support, to assist, and to help in this time of chaos and anguish.”