Violence intensifies in water-crisis protests in Iran’s Khuzestan


Several videos and accounts have surfaced from Khuzestan, despite the internet ban.

Tehran, Iran – Iranian officials have said a police officer was shot dead by “agitators” in Iran’s Khuzestan province, where a six-night protest over a water shortage has turned deadly.

State media reported that another police officer in Bandar Mahshahr was injured on Tuesday night after being shot in his leg, as videos and reports from the oil-rich southwestern province indicated the violence had not stopped.

Authorities have so far confirmed that two civilians, 18-year-old Ghassam Khojeri and 30-year-old Mustafa Naimawi, were shot dead on Friday, but say the youths were not protesters and were killed by “opportunists and rioters”. was given.

More protesters are expected to be killed, but officials have yet to confirm further deaths. He also did not disclose how many civilians have been arrested.

Sporadic internet slowdowns or blackouts have been reported across the province for several days. Despite internet restrictions, several videos have emerged from several counties of Khuzestan over the past week, in many of which can be heard shots and tear gas being used.

In some of the videos, protesters can be seen riding motorcycles in large numbers, enraging security forces dressed in black.

A video purportedly from Tuesday night shows a tank, set up as a memorial to the gruesome eight-year Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, set on fire, while tires are blown off roads. But was seen setting fire.

The video could not be independently verified.

Oil-rich Khuzestan, parts of which were temporarily seized by Iraq’s Saddam Hussein when he invaded Iran with support from the West, has been facing water problems for decades. Its large Sunni Arab population has long complained of being marginalized in predominantly Shia Iran.

The year, however, has been particularly difficult for the province – and the country as a whole – due to extremely hot temperatures and drought, which have led to widespread blackouts and water shortages.

Officials acknowledge the province has been hit hard, but claim separatist groups are responsible for the violence and accuse foreign media of trying to take advantage of the situation to oppose the democratic establishment.

The government of outgoing President Hassan Rouhani said it had allocated fresh funds to de-escalate the situation, while the military and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said they were deploying water tankers to the parched area.

The province also saw some of the biggest protests of 2019 nationwide, which were built on a sudden three-fold increase in petrol prices. Human rights organizations say hundreds of people were killed during those protests as internet access was almost completely cut across the country for a week.

Iranian reactions

Over the past week, both social media and traditional media have been flooded with accounts and news and reactions to the situation in Khuzestan.

Hashtags in Persian such as #KhuzestanIsThirsty and #KhuzestanHasNoWater have been widely used to draw attention to the crisis and protests covered by the international media.

Some citizens have tried to raise money to buy water bottles and tankers to send to Khuzestan, but others have pointed out that such moves undermine the long-term issues faced by the people of the province, who are known to be mismanaged. And years of neglect require a permanent solution. After the war.

Ahvaz’s lawyer Fereshteh Tabanian tweeted: “Khuzestan’s problem is with illegal river transfer projects and water mafia stealing water from the river’s source.”

Residents of Khuzestan have reported on social media that the province never had potable tap water and had to buy their own water, or draw it from rivers, many of which have now dried up.

The same dirty tap water is now closed to many citizens.

The situation becomes even worse when there is a power outage as many people use electric pumps to bring water inside their homes.

On Tuesday, a group of activists and human rights advocates, including Narges Mohammadi, who was released from prison in October 2020 after serving eight and a half years, demonstrated in front of the interior ministry in the capital Tehran to express support for the people . of Khuzestan.

Mohammadi’s husband Tagi Rahmani said the activist and several others had been arrested. He later said he was released early Wednesday.

Two former presidents – reformist Mohamed Khatami and radical Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – have also criticized the response of the authorities to the protests.

“No political, security, military or law enforcement organization has the right to face people’s protests with violence, weapons or bullets on the pretext of combating anarchy,” Khatami said.

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