The government of Iran recently warned against any “cooperation” with the launch of the Telegram messaging app’s Gram cryptocurrency, according to a report from the Tehran Times. Iran’s Secretary of Criminal Content Definition Task Force Javad Javidnia reportedly declared such cooperation a threat to the nation’s national security and a disruption to its economy.
In defending the government's decision to ban Telegram, Javidnia said:
“One of the most important factors in banning Telegram was a sense of serious economic threat from its activities, which was unfortunately marginalized and neglected due to the fuss in the political atmosphere of the country.”
Iran’s government has been hostile to the Telegram app for more than a year. In the wake of mass protests in late 2017, the government took steps to temporarily block citizens from accessing Telegram and Instagram. Months later, in early 2018, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei chose to issue a ban on use of the app by the nation’s officials.
Since December 2017, Iran has experienced a series of public protests in cities throughout the country, resulting in at least 23 reported deaths and an alleged 3,700 arrests. Analysts have cited a host of reasons for the protests, ranging from disapproval of the government’s economic policies to dissatisfaction with the country’s theocracy.
In addition to its Telegram ban, the government’s response to protesters has included a suspension of English language instruction in primary schools, blocking internet access to several Iranian cities, and a coordinated media effort to censor coverage of protest activity.