In 2022, authorities across the globe shut down the internet to attack human rights across 35 countries at least 187 times. In the Middle East and North Africa, 11 countries shutdown the internet 37 times — with Iran hitting the kill switch a staggering 18 times.
Just launched, Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition’s new report, Weapons of control, shields of impunity: Internet shutdowns in 2022, reveals and unpacks the global resurgence of internet shutdowns over the span of one catastrophic year for human rights, including across the Middle East and North Africa. Read the full report, global snapshot, and the Middle East and North Africa deep dive.
“Internet shutdowns in MENA are meticulously timed and targeted, with confounding justifications and overbroad objectives. Importantly they never meet their goals — internet shutdowns do not solve problems, they compound them,” said Marwa Fatafta, MENA Policy and Advocacy Manager at Access Now. “2022 was a bad year for freedom of expression and access to information, and it is outrageous to see countries like Iraq and Turkey follow suit this year.”
In 2022, authorities continued to weaponize internet shutdowns against millions of people and communities around the world and across the Middle East and North Africa. Key findings include:
- The total: at least 37 shutdowns across 11 countries in MENA, jumping from 23 shutdowns in nine countries in 2021;
- The new offenders: following the suspension of parliament, a shutdown in Tunisia was recorded for the first time since the 2011 revolution;
- The biggest offenders: Iran was the biggest offender regionally, and third-highest perpetrator of shutdowns globally, disconnecting people at least 18 times amid brutal crackdown on nationwide protests;
- The attacks in conflict: Saudi-led coalition forces deliberately blacked out a telecommunications facility in Yemen;
- The triggers: authorities across the MENA region shut down the internet in contexts of mass protests, conflict, school examinations, elections, political instability, and other high-profile events;
- The impunity: in Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, and Sudan, authorities disrupted internet access to shroud serious human rights abuses and violence, and 50% of shutdowns in Iran targeted ethnic minorities;
- The entrenchment: excluding Tunisia, all countries in the region were repeat offenders;
- The excuses: authorities in Sudan, Algeria, Syria, Jordan, and Iraqi Kurdistan continued to kill the switch during national exams allegedly to stop students from cheating; and
- The positives: The #KeepItOn coalition grew to over 300 members from 105 countries.
In 2022, governments shut down the internet across the Middle East and North Africa in: Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Oman, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, and Yemen.
“Governments wield internet shutdowns as weapons of control and shields of impunity,” said Kassem Mnejja, MENA Campaigner at Access Now. “Every time authorities interfered with internet access across the Middle East and North Africa in 2022, they blocked the free flow of ideas, quashed free speech, and prevented open communication. When they did it during turmoil and crises, they jeopardized lives.”