SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced on Friday that he is activating the company’s Starlink satellite internet service in Iran after U.S. officials eased sanctions to allow the Iranian people greater access to the internet.
The Treasury Department announced the policy change earlier on Friday to let companies provide additional online services as the Iranian government has cut off internet access for most of the country as protests continue nationwide.
Musk previously announced on Monday that he planned to request permission for Starlink to operate in Iran after the Treasury said it would welcome applications to support internet freedom in the country.
“We took action today to advance Internet freedom and the free flow of information for the Iranian people, issuing a General License to provide them greater access to digital communications to counter the Iranian government’s censorship,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a tweet.
Starlink, a division of the Musk-owned spacecraft manufacturer SpaceX, has operated since 2019, The Associated Press reported. It operates thousands of satellites internationally to provide internet access.
Iran has sought to cut off civilians’ access to the internet amid protests that began this past week following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody. Amini was arrested by the morality police for allegedly wearing a hijab improperly and died a few days later.
Iranian authorities said she died from a heart attack, but her family said she was badly beaten, leading to mass protests throughout the country. The protests have led to more than a dozen confirmed deaths as many women have burned their hijabs and cut their hair in public in opposition to what happened to Amini and to Iranian policy.