WASHINGTON – Protests over a water shortage in drought-stricken southwestern Iran have spread to more cities and officials say is the third fatality as unrest has risen to a seventh day.
Videos posted on social media appeared on Wednesday showing street protests in several parts of Khuzestan province, including the capital, Ahvaz, and the cities of Behbahan, Dezful, Izeh, Masjid Soleiman, Ramshir, and Suzangered.
In a clip reported from Izeh, security forces were seen firing tear gas at protesters. In another clip, which is said to be of Masjid Suleiman, protesters chanted, “Police, support us,” a reference to local concerns about security forces cracking down on earlier rallies.
Other social media videos showed Iranians rallying in support of Khuzestan protesters in the city of Yazdenshahr in neighboring Isfahan province. The Isfahan rally will be the first such protest in the province since daily protests began in Khuzestan last Thursday and the widest and most sustained disturbance Iran has seen in months.
VOA could not independently verify the reported videos of Khuzestan and Isfahan. Iran has blocked the VOA from reporting inside the country.
In another development, Iranian state-approved news site ILNA Hassan Nabouti, the top official of the city of Izeh in Khuzestan, cited reports of one person’s death in local protests against water scarcity on Tuesday.
Nabouti said the man who was injured in the protests was taken to a hospital in a private car and declared brought dead. Nabouti said an investigation was underway to identify the attacker and added that 14 security personnel were injured in the protests.
Another Iranian state News Agency, FarsiIdentified the deceased as a youth named Hadi Bahmani.
Social media users on Thursday posted videos that showed Bahmani being buried on the outskirts of Izeh. He said he was a 17-year-old construction worker.
Iranian state media previously reported the killing of two people by gunfire during demonstrations last Friday.
Social media videos that appear to be from Tuesday’s protests in Izeh but could not be verified by the VOA show protesters chanting “death to Khamenei” and “Reza Shah, bless his soul”. Gunshots were also heard in those videos.
The “death of Khamenei” has been a common occurrence in recent years for anti-government protesters angered by the authoritarian regime of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Previous waves of Iranian street protests also chanted “Reza Shah, bless your soul” as a sign of affection for Reza Shah, the founder of the country’s former monarchy. Khamenei’s predecessor, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, ousted Reza Shah’s son from power in Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Digital communication with Iranian protest areas remained difficult. London-based internet monitoring group Netblox said there had been “significant regional disruption to mobile internet service in Iran” since water shortage protests began a week ago.
“Cellular Data Analysis Metrics confirms widespread user reports of cellular network disruptions, consistent with a regional Internet shutdown aimed at controlling conflict,” Netblox said. an online statement.
Iranian state-approved news agency ISNA President Hassan Rouhani told Khuzestan’s provincial governor in a phone call on Thursday that the authorities should listen and respect the rights of protesters suffering from drought and extreme heat, said President Hassan Rouhani. ISNA said Rouhani had previously ordered Vice President Ishaq Jahangiri to visit Khuzestan on Friday to investigate the situation there.
In a press briefing on Wednesday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington was closely following the Khuzestan protests, “including reports that security forces have opened fire on protesters.”
Price said, “We support the right of Iranians to peacefully assemble and express themselves. Iranians, like any other people, are arbitrarily detained by security forces, without fear of violence. without enjoying those rights.”
Iran’s water scarcity 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%, and high summer temperatures.
Experts say decades of Iranian government mismanagement have also fueled the drought. They blame the poorly-considered location of the authorities and the construction of hydroelectric dams and diverting water from Khuzestan’s rivers and wetlands to industrial sites in neighboring areas, which dried up sources of drinking and agricultural water for the province’s residents. Huh.