WASHINGTON – A series of water shortage protests in Iran’s drought-stricken southwest that began last Thursday sparked more gunfire from Iranian security forces.
Videos posted on social media showed street protests in several parts of Iran’s Khuzestan province late Sunday, including the suburbs of the capital Ahvaz and the cities of Suzangard and Shush. VOA could not independently verify the clip as it has been barred from reporting in Iran.
Additional footage posted on social media purportedly shows the Khuzestan protests extending till Monday night. VOA also could not independently verify those videos.
In a video shared in Iran by the Washington-based group Human Rights Activists, which said it was filmed in Suzannegard on Sunday and obtained from an Iran-based source, a policeman is seen firing into the air and Other shots can be heard as pedestrians and motorbikes quickly disintegrate.
The Associated Press reported that the incident depicted in the video corresponds to known features of Suzannegard and took place where other demonstrations have taken place in recent days.
Few other details of Sunday’s protests can be confirmed. Roya Boroumand, co-founder of the Washington-based rights group Abdorrahman Boroumand Center, told VOA Persian that power outages and slow Internet speeds in Khuzestan are serious barriers to communication.
Iranian state media has confirmed that two people were killed by gunfire during protests late Friday on the second night of unrest. He said Ghasam was killed in the Ahvaz suburb of Khaziri Kut Abdullah, while Mustafa Naimawi was killed in Shadegan.
The circumstances of those murders are disputed. Iranian officials have blamed them on the saboteurs, and state media have said relatives of the two people interviewed said their loved ones were affiliated with or friendly to Iran’s pro-government Basij militia.
Iran’s state-approved news agency ISNA quoted the head of the judiciary, Gholamhossein Mohseni AZE, as saying on Monday that deaths and injuries in the Khuzestan protests should be investigated and perpetrators dealt with.
Iran International, a London-based Persian news network Reported Some social media users say they believe Iranian security forces fatally shot two men and that officials forced the men’s relatives to falsely accuse other perpetrators of the murders.
Iran’s government has a long record of publishing and disseminating solicited statements from dissidents and their family members, who it later says were evicted under pressure from those and rights activists.
Water shortage protests turn deadly in southwest Iran
Experts say two days of street protests in Iran’s Khuzestan province were triggered by low rainfall, poor dam location and diversion of river water.
The protests began late Thursday, with social media videos showing Iranians marching and chanting in Arabic in several cities in Khuzestan, home of the ethnic minority Arabs, who have long accused majority-Persian Iran’s ruling clerics of discrimination and neglect. accused of. In the clip, protesters are heard shouting slogans like “I am thirsty” and “Water is my right”.
The street protests are the widest-scale and most sustained unrest Iran has seen in months.
Responding to a VOA Persian question at a US State Department press briefing last week, spokeswoman Jalina Porter said Washington has seen reports of Iran’s water shortage and the resulting protests.
“We continue to urge the Iranian government to support the Iranian people as they exercise their universal rights to freedom of expression as well as freedom of peaceful assembly,” Porter said.
Hadi Ghaimi, head of the Center for Human Rights in Iran, New York, released Statement, called on the United Nations to “forcefully call on Iranian authorities to allow people to air their grievances without threats of violence or imprisonment in order to prevent a recurrence of the events of 2019.”
Iran’s government ordered a 50% increase in the subsidized price of gasoline on November 15, 2019, sparking mass protests across the country, Iranians facing high unemployment and inflation in a shrinking economy under heavy US sanctions. made its finances more strained. Iranian security forces killed hundreds and arrested thousands in crushing mostly peaceful demonstrations, with some protesters also damaging buildings and businesses.
The water shortage in Iran is partly the result of weather-related factors, including a sharp drop in rainfall, which in recent months exceeded last year’s levels by more than 40%, combined with higher summer temperatures. is. Drought has left Iran’s dams with less water to generate hydroelectricity, triggering a nationwide blackout in recent weeks.
Experts say decades of Iranian government mismanagement have also fueled the drought. They blame the poorly-considered location and construction of dams by the authorities and diverting water from Khuzestan’s rivers and wetlands to industrial sites in neighboring regions, which have dried up sources of drinking and agricultural water for provincial residents.