Protesters in the southwestern province of Khuzestan and other provinces took to the streets for the second week to demand water, while riot police used deadly force to crack down on protesters.
In a report today, Amnesty International said security forces had killed at least eight protesters and bystanders, including a teenage boy, since protests began.
Amnesty identified the men as Mostafa Asakereh (Naimavi) in Shadegan, Ghassem Naseri (Khozeiri) in Kut-e Abdollah, Isa Baledi and Meysam Achrash in Taleghani, Hamzeh (Farzad) Fereisat in Ahvaz, Mehdi Chanani in Shoush, Hamid Mojadam (Jokari) in Chamran, and a teenage boy, Hadi Bahmani, in Izeh. The deaths resulted from incidents on 16, 19, 20 and 21 July.
The report said security forces used live ammunition and birdshot to crush Khuzestan protests. According to the rights group, “video footage from the past week, coupled with consistent accounts from the ground, indicate security forces used deadly automatic weapons, shotguns with inherently indiscriminate ammunition, and tear gas to disperse protesters.”
In addition to this, unconfirmed local reports said at least three to four protesters were killed yesterday only in the city of Aligudarz, in western Iran on the first day of their protests in support of Khuzestan Province. State-run media also confirmed the death of one unidentified person during protests in Aligudarz, in Lorestan Province. According to IRIB, a 20-year-old man was shot and killed by “unknown elements” and two 16-year-old teenagers were injured.
Numerous videos showed the bodies of young men and even children injured and riddled with pellets.
Local reports said Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), used by the regime for brutal crackdowns, arrested dozens of protesters in the past two days in Ahvaz and other cities in Khuzestan Province. The detainees were taken to unknown locations.
Another local report said as many as 350 Iranian Arabs were detained in Khuzestan Province. Many others were injured but refused to go to the hospital for fear of arrest.
Yesterday, locals held a funeral for 17-year-old Hadi Bahmani, killed on July 20 in Izeh, a city in Khuzestan Province. Footage showed locals in mourning at his funeral chanting “Down with Khamenei”.
In Shahin Shahr, Isfahan, central Iran locals gathered in support of the Khuzestan water protests.
Internet disruptions continued into the eighth night with locals reporting they had no mobile network.
Netblocks, an organization that monitors international Internet outages, reported ongoing internet disruptions in the southwestern province of Khuzestan starting on July 15.
Despite the brutal lethal crackdown against protesters, protests have continued for eight nights in over 30 cities in Khuzestan province, Isfahan province, Lorestan province, Bushehr in southern Iran, and Razavi Khorasan province in northeastern Iran.
Regime officials blame “rioters”
Officials in the Iranian regime blamed the killings and injuries on “rioters” or “seditionists”. The regime uses the word seditionists to refer to protesters. State-run media said 26-year-old Mostafa Naeemawi was killed by “seditionists” in the protests.
“We will not allow some opportunists in the province of Khuzestan create insecurity,” Qasem Rezaie, the Deputy Commander of Iran’s Police force, said in a video message, according to state-run media. He also added that the “people of Khuzestan” will not allow foreign-dependent groups to threaten their peace and security.
The Prosecutor’s Office in Khuzestan wrote in a statement on July 21 that the demands of the people of Khuzestan should be answered, especially those of livestock farmers and farmers who have suffered from the lack of water. However, he warned that “rioters”, “foreign mercenaries”, “hypocrites”, and the “evil anti-revolutionary elements” would be “countered decisively” and “dealt with severely according to the law” for disturbing the peace.
This is while after eight nights of protests, the water problem has not been solved in the southwestern province. Security forces used brutal force against demonstrators from the first day of the protests by Iranian Arabs, who were only chanting for water.
Reason behind Iran’s water protests
Iranians blame regime elites and the unelected Supreme Leader for their lack of basic living facilities, including the recent water shortage. They believe the money from Khuzestan’s oil industry goes towards making regime elites richer and funds Iran’s nuclear program and regional terrorist groups.
Environmental experts have said the reason behind the water crisis is mostly mismanagement of the regime’s officials. Iran’s Khuzestan province was once well-known for its abundance of water sources.
“There is no need to import water. We just need the right management and the appointment of the right experts to manage the country,” Mohammad Darvish, an expert on water and environmental affairs told state-run Media last week.
Darvish said Iranians only needed 8% of the country’s water supply for drinking.
“Even though rainfall has decreased by 40% this year, we could have easily supplied drinking water for the country. If there is a drinking water problem, it is a result of mismanagement, and cannot be solved by imports,” Darvish said.
Internet blackout and slaughter, a repeated pattern of repression
The Iranian regime is notorious for cutting off the internet in times of protest, quashing protests in silence, and preventing news of the protests from getting out.
In 2019, during the November 2019 nationwide protests, the Iranian regime implemented a 3-day internet blackout to suppress protesters and hide the scope of the crackdown. During the bloody November 2019 protests, 1,500 men, women, and children were killed.
In February, the internet was disrupted or completely shut down when protests erupted in the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan.
According to a report by Freedom House, the application of national sovereignty to cyberspace is a tactic used by autocratic governments. It has given them “free rein to crack down on human rights while ignoring objections from local civil society and the international community.”
The report said Iran’s government cut off connections to hide the police’s violent response to mass protests in late 2019 adding that this was “an ultimate expression of contempt for freedoms of association and assembly, as well as for the right to access information.”