#rp23 keynote speaker Mahsa Alimardani: Unleashing the Power of Technology in Iran's Women-Led Revolution

27.04.2023 - How can we strengthen human rights and amplify voices despite all the repression, censorship and blackouts?
Mahsa Alimardani als Sprecherin auf einem Event

The removal of a free internet is one of the ways human rights can be abused. Access to online information in Iran has only become more crucial for women and girls amid the country’s ongoing protests. The question that follows is: how can we strengthen human rights and amplify voices despite all the repression, censorship and blackouts? 

At re:publica 23, we hope to shed some light on these pressing questions together with Mahsa Alimardani. In her talk, she will not only investigate recent aggressive moves by the Islamic Republic of Iran to limit access, but also look at what tech companies and the international community can be doing to sustain connectivity. 

Mahsa Alimardani is an internet researcher focusing on the Middle East and North Africa region with a specialisation on Iran. She has worked on matters related to human rights, technology, and freedom of expression online for over a decade within civil society and academia. She is currently a senior researcher with the international human rights organisations ARTICLE19 working on digital rights in the MENA region. She’s also a DPhil candidate at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford, and has previously served as a Senior Information Controls Fellow for the Open Technology Fund. Her writing and analysis on technology and freedom of expression in Iran is regularly featured in academic journals as well as media such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and Slate.

We are looking forward to continuing the conversation about internet access control and the human rights situation in Iran with Mahsa at #rp23 – because the protests must not be forgotten.


An interview with Mahsa Alimardani.

What are you currently working on, and what topics would you like to discuss with us at #rp23?

I’m working on understanding digital repression in authoritarian countries like Iran, especially during uprisings like the one we have been witnessing in Iran since the murder of Mahsa Jhina Amini. How we can place international pressure on countries like Iran to maintain connectivity and how tech companies should be ensuring access and policies enhance rights and expression in these contexts. 
The motto of this year's re:publica is CASH. Where do you see connections to the current situation in Iran?

CASH is at the heart of what is going on with the abuses of the Islamic Republic. The Islamic Republic is a dictatorship that operates like a mafia. Not only are the people of Iran denied social, civil and political rights – including free access to the internet – the regime has been plundering and stealing the wealth of an entire nation. Much of what Iranians are fighting for is freedom, but this freedom means hope for economic prosperity and security. The Islamic Republic chooses to operate a corrupt state that isolates its people and steals from them. The slogan of the revolution in Iran is “woman, life, freedom”. Iran’s Gen Z are fighting, risking life and blood, because they see no hope for their future. Economic freedom and prosperity is a big part of this struggle.  
What new developments or trends in your field should we be paying attention to? Which scientists or authors would you recommend reading prior to attending your talk?

What happens in Iran is really coalescing grounds for authoritarian strategies and efforts from the major censorship power, China. Iran has always tried to emulate China, and I would really recommend authors such as Margaret Roberts, Jennifer Penn, and Steven Feldstein who have extensively covered and written about digital repression in China. The aggressive rise in digital repression – from the use of facial recognition to police hijab, to the ways censorship is implemented – all has something to do with the strategies China is developing or has developed.