Syrian Internet Cutoff Along With Mobile Communications
by Brandy Cross
Syria’s Internet and telecommunications were cut at around noon on Thursday, throwing the already war ridden nation into an almost total media blackout. But while the government has been accused of causing the Syrian internet cutoff to stave off communication between the rebels, they are also affected by the blackout. Experts are still saying that while Syria is still offline, there is still no known cause for the blackout.
Syria in the Midst of an Internal War
It’s no secret that Syria is in the middle of an internal war. Rebels fighting for more freedom have been the cause of multiple deaths of both Syrian and foreign soldiers. Car bombings in the past few days alone have killed more than thirty people, and hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been displaced from their homes due to the war, to face the cold of winter without adequate shelter. Currently the Syrian rebels are being backed by European, British, and now American governments, and Obama has even opened talks of sending in U.S. support for the insurgents. A few days ago, the insurrectionists seized the Damascus airport, causing Egypt to ban all flights to the popular tourist destination until some of the conflict dies down. Then, at about noon on Thursday the 29th, internet and media connection completely dropped, bandwidth and user login data dropping to zero almost instantly.
Syrian Internet Cutoff
Syrian internet is effectively cut off completely, as is most phone connection. Currently only users with their own satellites can connect to the internet or make calls, but experts still don’t know why Syrian internet was cutoff. The Syrian government blames terrorists, and likely the Syrian Rebels. ”The terrorists targeted the internet lines, resulting in some regions being cut off,” Syria’s minister of Information said on TV.
Others are blaming the government, with President Bashar Assad at the top of the list of likely culprits. Syrian internet has been cut off in local areas to fight rebel communication in the past, and some are saying that this total media blackout could be in response to the mass support being given to the Syrian rebels. Bashar Assad may be thinking he stands a better hope of winning the war without other countries knowing what is going on, or interfering. Syria has also experienced blackouts in the past, each lasting for about an hour in June and August.
And internet cutoffs or media blackouts are nothing new in the world of tactics. Both Egypt and Libya cut off internet to rebels during uprisings there, and Palestine Gaza war heavily surrounded the people’s right to media, even heavily involving hactivist group ‘Anonymous’.
Effects of the Blackout
With the internet and media coverage off, both the Syrian rebels and the government can do almost anything they like. With poor communications methods, it could be hours before anyone else even hears about an attack. The blackout has caused the Damascus airport to completely vanish from the map as radar and tracking devices go offline. Since the blackout, the Syrian rebels have supposedly moved towards the Damascus airport road, engaging in fierce fighting with forces loyal to the President. Reports also indicate that President Assad has ordered concentrated airstrikes along the outskirts of Damascus and Aleppo, potentially the original reason for the Syrian internet cutoff. When Israel launched airstrikes against Gaza, they were hit with a barrage of more than 40 million cyber-attacks in an effort by Anonymous to stop the carnage, and have internet returned to the city. With a total country blackout, Syria simply won’t have any cyber security issues. Sryian government officials have also leaked word that a major ‘cleansing’ is underway, an attempt to cut the suburbs that house rebels off from the city center now fully underway.
The Syrian internet cutoff is the worst Syrian media blackout in more than 20 months. While there is very little communication, and no way to tell who is responsible for the blackout, it is clear that changes will be made when the country comes back online.