Today, July 19, the widespread protests in Khuzestan over the mismanagement of officials regarding the ongoing water crisis continued for a fifth consecutive day. Since the start of the protests on Thursday, provincial authorities have confirmed that at least two civilians have been killed by military forces.
According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, today’s rallies in Khuzestan took place in Hamidiyeh, Ahvaz, Kut Abdullah, Susangard, Ramhormoz, Mahshahr, Khorramshahr, Veys, and Chamranhere. There were no reports of violence or shootings by government forces except a report from Chamran city, which seems to be aerial shooting.
The weekend’s demonstrations also saw heavy escalation. As shown in videos previously published by HRANA, the Susangard protests were responded to with violence from on-duty military forces this Sunday. In multiple areas police opened fire on unarmed protesters.
The protestors blocked the roads connecting Ahvaz to Khorramshahr and Ahvaz to Shush by lighting fires. There have also reportedly been sporadic internet outages across the province.
Since the second day of the protests, provincial officials have confirmed that two citizens, 30-year-old Mostafa Naeemawi from Shadegan, and 17-year-old Ghasem Naseri (Khaziri) from the Kut Abdollah area of Ahvaz, were killed during the protests. HRANA has received reports, which have yet to be verified, of a third civilian additionally being shot dead by military forces.
Previously, the governor of Khuzestan said, “The published videos of the protests in the province are fake and no protest has taken place.”
“Some seek to provoke the people and publish fake images of the protests in cyberspace,” the governor further stated. “For example, nothing has happened in the cities of Khorramshahr and Susangard, but clips related to the past events are published in cyberspace!”
Public rallies to protest the water cuts and lack of access to drinking water began on the night of Thursday, July 15, and have spread to at least 17 cities so far.
During the last four days, people protested in at least 17 cities, including Shavur, Karkheh, Kut Seyed Naeem, Shush, Ahvaz, Abadan, Hamidiyeh, Bostan, Susangard, Bandar Mahshahr, Khorramshahr, Shadegan, Kut Abdollah, Mollasani, Hoveyzeh, and Abou Homeyzeh in Khuzestan Province and Mashhad. In some of the released videos, the sounds of gunfire can be heard, and a recurring theme across the footage is the heavy presence of armed military and security forces.
Local sources published reports, as of yet unverified, that several protesting citizens were injured and many others were detained in the city of Khorramshahr. So far, Abdolreza Soleimani, Darem Soleimani, Mansour Soleimani, Yarullah Soleimani and his son Ali Soleimani, all residents of Khorramshahr, are reportedly detained.
Workers at the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Agro-Industry Company supported protests in Khuzestan during their rally and march on Sunday, July 18.
A resident of Ahvaz told HRANA about the situation in the city, “Special forces from other places are quickly (being) deployed to Ahvaz to suppress young protestors. Access to drinking water is one of the most basic civil rights. While Khuzestan was once considered the most water-rich province in the country, the mismanagement has led to the crisis of supply of drinking water in Khuzestan to become a serious challenge for people.”
Mahmoud Ahmadi Bighash, a representative of Shazand City in Parliament, said that providing water and development is an immediate responsibility of the entire government. Bighash wrote in a tweet:
“The situation in Khuzestan is concerning, I point it out indirectly, be very careful about what happened in Khuzestan; open all the [Karun River’s] water sources to quench Khuzestan’s thirst and put out the fire.”
Abdullah Izad Panah, Speaker of the House of Representatives of Khuzestan, also gave a statement in a recent meeting about crisis management in which he criticized the water transfer projects in the province.
“Water transfer projects should be stopped,” the representative said. “Drought is just one side of the issue. The transfer of water has caused Khuzestan to fall to this condition.”
Earlier, Jalil Mokhtar, the representative of Abadan, considered the problems caused by the transfer of water from Khuzestan province to other provinces, and mismanagement.
“Unfortunately, we have witnessed the water transfer from Khuzestan to other areas based on government approvals,” Mokhtar said. “Khuzestan, which was a fertile plain, is now on a desertification path.”
The Human Rights Defenders Association wrote an open letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressing concern about the suppression of protesters of the water crisis by security officials and calling for an end to the suppression.
“Khuzestan province, despite having rich oil resources, is among the most deprived provinces in Iran, and its residents are facing a high range unemployment, losing water sources, polluted air, and frequent power outages, so their protests are completely justified, and the response must not be bullets and imprisonment.”
Watch our compilation of video footage taken at various protests throughout the province.