Iran Blocks Google’s Gmail, Braces for Protests

Google has announced that usage of its e-mail service in Iran has slowed down, giving credence to complaints from users that the Islamic Republic is blocking access to Gmail. Google said it has not monitored any problems with its networks. Earlier, an Iranian telecommunications official reportedly said that the country would permanently cut off access to Gmail and replace it with a government-managed e-mail service.

Iran is currently bracing for widespread protests that opposition groups are planning to hold during the culmination of the Islamic Revolution anniversary on February 11. Anti-government Web sites have called on people to flock to the streets and show their opposition to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is accused of cheating in last June’s elections.

The government has vowed to crack down on protesters. The Revolutionary Guards, Iran’s elite military team, said arrests of dissidents have already been made ahead of the event that commemorates the end of monarchy and establishment of the Islamic Republic in the country.