ISSN 2330-717X

Iran: Number Of People Killed In Uprising Of Khuzestan Province Are On Rise – OpEd 

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It seems that the patience of the Iranian people over living conditions under the reign of the Mullahs has run out. In recent months, there have been protest rallies of various segments of the population in most cities of Iran. Low wages, unemployment, skyrocketing prices, shortage of water, power outages…… are part of a long list of the reasons these protests have been taking place. In recent months, almost no day has passed by without protests, sit-in gatherings, and strikes from farmers, workers, nurses and medical staff of hospitals, teachers, retirees, and etc.

Currently, more than 50% of Iran’s population live in absolute poverty and in very difficult conditions. On the other hand, the spread of Covid-19 and its high number of fatalities resulting from government corruption and mismanagement have added to the misery of the lower class of society. Although most government officials, their families, and those affiliated with them have been fully vaccinated, only about 7% of the Iranian population has been vaccinated with their first dose. According to reliable sources, the number of victims of this disease in Iran has now exceeded 336,000.

For these reasons the Iranian people unanimously boycotted the June 2021 presidential election to show their dissatisfaction and discontent with the regime. According to reliable sources inside Iran, close to 10% of the people casted their votes. In reality, and in the eyes of many analysts, people’s boycott of the election could be translated into a referendum. Also, according to the regime itself, which is far from the truth, the voter participation in Tehran, with a population of over 8 million, was less than 26%.

But Khamenei ignored the poor result of the presidential election and called it an epic of people’s support for the regime.  

As a result, within a couple of days after the presidential election, the workers of oil, gas, and petrochemical refineries in different cities stopped working as a protest to their working conditions, their livelihood, and low wages, which are less than a third of the poverty line. Following them, farmers in Isfahan staged mass protests against the blockage of the Zayandeh Rood River, which has caused the destruction of their crops. And now, about a month after the sham presidential election, different cities of  Khuzestan province are witnessing widespread protests.

The shortage of water in the province’s rivers, which has been caused by the construction of numerous unregulated dams by companies affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, resulted in the loss of people’s agricultural products and livestock in many villages. Even the drinking water has been cut off in many cities.

As a result, The youth in most of this province cities, such as Ahvaz, Susangard, Shousha, Mahshahr, Azadegan plain, Shadegan, Hamidiyeh, Zargan, Behbahan, Omidieh, Dezful, Izeh, Masjed Soleiman, and etc took to the streets and demanded the opening of the dams and flow of water in the rivers. But since the regime, as usual, ignored their demands gradually the slogans quickly became political and changed to “Death to the Dictator” and “Death to Khamenei.”

But Khamenei, knowing that giving in to the demands of the people and retreating against them will lead to a series of other rightful demands by the people in other provinces, neither intends nor is capable of responding to these demands.

As always, and true with any other dictatorships, Khamenei resorted to repressive methods to bring the recent uprisings to an end, similar to the crackdown of widespread uprisings of November 2019, which resulted in the brutal killing of more than 1500 protestors and the arrest of more than 12,000 by the regime’s security force).

To quell the uprisings in Khuzestan, the regime sent its security forces from the neighboring provinces, hoping to crack down on the protestors and bring it to an end.

Police and anti-riot forces have shot and killed/injured dozens in various cities of the province and have detained and imprisoned hundreds. 

According to Amnesty International, “At least eight people” have been killed by security forces so far, but the actual number is undoubtedly higher.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet also called on the Iranian authorities to address the water crisis in Khuzestan instead of trying to “suppress the protesters.”

The regime tried to justify its repressive actions by branding the insurgents as separatist and foreign forces. Also by spreading false news about the names of those killed and then by bringing some people to the television and announcing that the news of their deaths was falsely published by opposition groups, they tried to discredit the credibility of the news of the real victims, taking upper hand to further killings.

The regime also tried to cut off the communication of the people of this province with other areas by cutting off the internet network of this province. But its attempt failed to some degree, and the uprising spread to cities outside the province such as Khorramabad, Mashhad, Isfahan, Karaj, the capital Tehran and especially Tabriz the capital of Azerbaijan province. Tabriz is a very important city as historically it was the center point of the constitutional revolution (1905-1909) and the anti-monarchy revolution (1978-1979). So the regime is really afraid of any uprising in this city. But people of Tabriz, especially the youth, came to the streets in thousands in support of the people of Khuzestan and chanted “Neither Shah nor Khamenei, we are patriotic”. 

The spread of the uprising to other provinces and especially to Azerbaijan caused the regime to fear a repetition of what happened in November 2019. Therefore, on the one hand, by opening the valves of the dams and flowing some water in rivers the regime pretended that it is solving the crisis, and on the other hand, by sending Pasdar Hossein Salami, commander of the Revolutionary Guards, and Ishaq Jahangiri, vice president of the regime; to the region, tried to reorganize its repressive forces and prepare for worse situations.

Now that Ebrahim Raisi as the head of the new government will take over on June 12, given his background and knowledge of the repression and massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in 1988, one can expect him to increase the suffocating atmosphere to suppress this uprising.

But, the majority of the Iranian youth who have nothing to lose and are sick and tired of this regime, and want a regime change, will not be silenced easily. So we should expect more uprisings in the near future in other cities of Iran.

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Cyrus Yaqubi

Cyrus Yaqubi is a Research Analyst and Iranian Foreign Affairs Commentator investigating the economy of the middle east countries that are relying on the oil revenue and comparing their progress to their ruling system, specially covering a variety of topics about Iran.

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