Protests over water shortages turn deadly in southwestern Iran


Protesters angry over water shortages took to the streets in southwestern Iran for the sixth night in a row on Tuesday, with increasing violence as residents of Tehran chanted anti-government slogans, according to videos posted on social media and Iranian news channels on Wednesday.

Videos uploaded by social media users show security forces using tear gas to disperse protesters. The semi-official Fars news agency said “rioters” shot and injured a police officer in the port city of Mahshahr in the oil-rich Khuzestan province.

In the city of Izeh, protesters chanted “Reza Shah, bless your soul” in a video, referring to the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty overthrown by the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Activists called for demonstrations in support of the protesters in Khuzestan and videos surfaced late Tuesday and early Wednesday of women chanting “Down with the Islamic Republic” in a Tehran metro station.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the videos.

At least two young men were shot dead during the protests. Officials have blamed armed protesters, but activists said on social media they were killed by security forces.

Iran’s ethnic-Arab minority, mainly living in Khuzestan, has long said they face discrimination. In one video, an Arab female protester was heard shouting to security forces, “Sir! Sir! The demonstration is peaceful. Why are you shooting? No one has taken your land and water.”

Iran’s worst drought in 50 years has led to power outages.

Iran’s economy has been devastated by sanctions imposed by former US President Donald Trump and the Covid-19 pandemic. Workers, including thousands in the main energy sector, and retirees have protested for months amid discontent over mismanagement, unemployment and inflation.

In Washington, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States was following the protests closely, including reports that security forces had fired on protesters.

“We support the rights of Iranians to assemble and express themselves peacefully. Iranians…should enjoy those rights without fear of violence, without fear of arbitrary detention by security forces,” he told reporters.

According to the dissident Human Rights Activists News Agency, at least 31 protests took place across Iran on Monday and Tuesday, including demonstrations by workers and peasants.