Iran’s southwest region has been rocked by six consecutive nights of protests by Iranian Arabs over access to clean drinking water. According to activists, three people have been killed so far in the oil-rich region of Khuzestan, which is home to a sizable ethnic Arab minority.
Sporadic internet slowdowns or blackouts have been reported across the province for several days. Despite the internet restrictions, numerous videos have come out of several counties in Khuzestan in the past week, in many of which shots can be heard and tear gas is seen being used.
In some videos, protesters can be seen venting angrily at baton-wielding security forces clad in black, riding motorcycles in large numbers.
Regarding the shooting that has resulted in the deaths of three protesters, Mohseni Ejei said that prosecutors will investigate the incident, “that led to damage or deaths.” He continued, addressing the protestors, “do not allow enemies to take advantage of your rightful demands.”
Authorities had earlier confirmed that two civilians, 18-year-old Ghasem Khozeiri and 30-year-old Mostafa Naimawi, were shot dead on Friday, but they say the young men were not protesters and were murdered by “opportunists and rioters”.
More protesters are feared dead but officials have yet to confirm further fatalities. They have also not disclosed how many civilians have been arrested.
Oil-rich Khuzestan, parts of which were temporarily seized by Iraq’s Saddam Hussein after he invaded Iran with backing from the West, has faced water problems for decades. Iranian Arabs in Khuzestan have long complained of being marginalised in predominantly Shia Iran.
“Khuzestan’s problem stems from illegal water transfer projects from river forks and stealing water from the source of the rivers by water mafias,” tweeted Fereshteh Tabanian, a lawyer based in Ahvaz.
Khuzestan residents have pointed out on social media that the province has never truly had drinkable tap water and they have had to buy their water or take it from the rivers, many of which have now dried up as well.
The same dirty tap water is now shut off for many citizens.
Sources: Al-Jazeera | Al-Monitor
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