Protester Killed During A Second Night Of Demonstrations In Iran
People in several cities in Iran’s Khuzestan province came out to streets to protest lack of water and forced migration, for a second consecutive night on Friday, with a young protester killed by gunshot that authorites tried to balme on protesers.
"During the rally, rioters shot in the air to provoke the people, but unfortunately one of the bullets hit a person present at the scene and killed him," Omid Sabripour, the head of the governorate in the town of Shadegan, told IRNA.
The largest protest took place in Susangerd, a city of 120,000 near the Iran-Iraq border with a large Arabic-speaking population. Shush or ancient Susa, an industrial town with an activist workers’ force was also rocked by demonstrations.
The protests appear to be spontaneous, prompted by messages on social media. People protested in several other cities in Khuzestan, the center of Iran’s oil production that provides the economic lifeline of the country.
Iran is in the midst of a long drought that has become worse this year by 50 percent less precipitation in the winter and spring. But people also blame the government for years of mismanagement, building too many unnecessary dams and diverting water to other areas. Many say the dams have not helped and have harmed the environment.
Protesters in some locations were chanting slogans in Arabic, as the indigenous Arabic-speaking population is partly rural, taking the brunt of the water shortage.
There were reports last week that in many Khuzestan villages and elsewhere in Iran the rural population is forced to buy water from tankers just for their personal needs. Iranian officials have said that 8,000 villages in the country have severe or serious water shortage and rely on tanker deliveries.
People in Susangerd were shouting “Impossible to accept humiliation” and “No to forced migration”. What angered the people more on Friday was the reaction of the provincial governor earlier in the day when he said videos showing demonstrations the previous night were fake.
A video of demonstrators sent to Iran International by a Susangerd resident says, “Mr. governor, you were saying there were no protests, now watch the protests.”
Residents reported that Iran’s Special Unit anti-riot forces entered the town of Hamidiyeh, but in a video sent to Iran International protesters said, “They sent the Special Unit to scare us, but we are used to it. This is not our first time. We are not scared, and protests will continue.”
At many locations residents closed important roads and highways with burning tires. Late Friday afternoon and evening the road from Ahvaz, the provincial capital, to Shush was blocked. Security forces intervened and fired tear gas and guns toward protesters.
The government reacted with convening the province’s Emergency Management Headquarters. But the leader of Khuzestan’s deputies in Iran’s parliament said in the meeting that years of diverting water from the province has resulted in the current situation. “Now Khuzestan’s security is at stake because of human errors and inappropriate decision decisions.”
Iran’s exiled Prince Reza Pahlavi in a tweet said, “Khuzestan with its rich soil and rivers has been the beating heart of Iran’s ancient civilization and culture for thousands of years. It was the cradle of the kingdom of Ilam and the winter retreat of Darius the Great. Today, because of the [Islamic] regime’s ineptitude, Khuzestan like other provinces does not have water and its people and the youth struggle with poverty, unemployment and discrimination.”