Iranian Security Forces Arrest Group Accused of Smuggling Starlink Satellite Technology

Zahedan city, where a Revolutionary Guard crackdown in 2022 killed scores of civilians, has been the site of another government crackdown on a ‘spy cell’ reportedly linked to the opposition faction of Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK). 

Five civilians were arrested on October 2nd, their names and place of detention is still unknown. Iranian authorities have accused former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi of organising the spy cell, despite his being under strict house arrest for the past 13 years. 

The arrests likely come as a precautionary measure taken by Iranian officials to discourage citizens from partaking in any protest action, as the anniversary of ‘Bloody Friday’ passed on September 30th. 

Tasnim, a state-linked media company claimed “Several days prior to September 30, a particular service sent communication equipment and Starlink devices to a specific group in Zahedan.” The equipment, allows civilians to circumvent most restrictions to the internet, which is heavily controlled by the regime. 

‘Bloody Friday’ refers to a fierce crackdown by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)  in the city last year, during which live rounds were fired at civilians, leaving 104 dead. The protests were in response to the rape of a 15-year-old girl in Balochistan and coincided with wider protests following the death of Mahsa Amini. During the crackdown, the internet to the city was cut, and very little footage of the massacre made it out of the country. 

On September 19th, during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Elon Musk shared that the Iranian regime had warned him about providing the technology to the country. An Iranian foreign Affairs spokesperson claimed that Musk’s actions were “a violation of Iran’s Sovereignty” and “such efforts will not go unanswered.”