Iraqi Authorities Block Telegram App; Iran-Backed Iraqi Militias Respond By Threatening Attacks

August 8, 2023

On August 5, 2023, the Telegram messaging app was unexpectedly blocked across Iraq, and the following morning the Iraqi Ministry of Communications announced that it had blocked Telegram due to national security concerns and in order to preserve the integrity of users' personal data, which it said the app had mishandled. The blocking of Telegram sparked angry condemnations from the Iran-backed Shi'ite militias in the country which claimed that it was carried out in the framework of "a policy to shut mouths" that has been adopted by the Iraqi government. The militias asserted that they would not accept the situation, and called on their members and supporters to demonstrate outside the Iraqi Ministry of Communications. They warned the government that they hold the entire database of the staff at all the government ministries. They later declared that they had shut down the websites of the Iraqi parliament and Ministry of Communications.

It is notable that this is not the first time that the Iran-backed militias have criticized the Iraqi government headed by Prime Minister Mohammed Shayya' Al-Sudani, and also the political arms of the militias that are members of the government, among which are Asaib Ahl Al-Haq and the Sayyid Al-Shuhada Brigades. The militias are critical of what they perceive as the government's collaboration with "the American occupation," and what they see as the latter's blatant interference in Iraqi internal affairs. Following this incident as well, the militias pointed an accusatory finger at "the American enemy" which they claim rules the country, and they warned U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Alina Romanowksi lest she attempt to silence "the voice of the people." In addition to calling on their supporters to demonstrate at the Ministry of Communications, they also urged them to demonstrate in front of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and threatened to attack "in the heart of the embassy."

This report reviews the responses of Iran-backed militias in Iraq to the blocking of the Telegram app in the country.

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