Water and power shortage protests in Iran have now been raging continuously for one week, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries particularly out of the restive southwest oil-rich province of Khuzestan, including the death of a police officer.
State media by mid-week has reported a death toll of three: “According to the state-run IRNA news agency, gunfire killed the officer in the city of Mahshar and another suffered a gunshot wound to his leg,” the AP reports citing state sources.
Tehran has presented the violence and killings as the fault of “rioters” while the State Department early in the week referenced reports of security forces indiscriminately opening fire on peaceful protesters.
“We support the rights of Iranians to peacefully assemble and express themselves… without fear of violence, without fear of arbitrary detention by security forces,” State Dept. spokesman Ned Price said.
Chants saying “down with the Ayatollah” have also been reported based on widely circulating social media videos, also with external Iranian opposition groups as well as Saudi-funded think tanks in the West attempting to seize on the protests as an “opportunity” to weaken and overthrow the Islamic Republic regime.
Iran Protests: Protestors closing the road in Borazjan from lack of water & electricity, it says. https://t.co/tpHjX9rhED
— Farnaz Fassihi (@farnazfassihi) July 22, 2021
Behind the crisis are US-led sanctions, severe government mismanagement of resources, but crucially what’s being dubbed the worst drought in 50 years.
IRAN: Protests continue in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan in the heat of the summer. Protesters demand access to clean water.pic.twitter.com/sUBMEs12n3
— Negar Mortazavi (@NegarMortazavi) July 19, 2021
One opposition group called Human Rights Activists in Iran was cited in AP as saying:
“As nearly 5 million Iranians in Khuzestan are lacking access to clean drinking water, Iran is failing to respect, protect, and fulfill the right to water, which is inextricably linked to the right to the highest attainable standard of health,” the group said.
And in a sign of the growing fierceness of the security response and crackdown, the global web-outage monitor Netblocks has reported widespread internet outages in Khuzestan for days, place of multiple protests across towns and cities, that are part of “state information controls or targeted Internet shutdowns.”
— Farnaz Fassihi (@farnazfassihi) July 20, 2021
The monitor said outages began on July 15, with outages still being reported into this week…
⚠️Confirmed: Network data show a significant regional disruption to mobile internet service in #Iran beginning Thursday 15 July 2021 amid widespread protests against water shortages in #Khuzestan Province; incident ongoing 📉
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) July 21, 2021
Already throughout the summer other parts of Iran have witnessed protests over severe electricity shortages leading to unplanned, intermittent blackouts – which Tehran officials have actually in some instances admitted is due in large part to mismanagement and neglect, while also blaming US-led sanctions.
Both the energy and water crisis are deepening the outrage of the Iranian populace, particularly during a hot summer, and given apartment high rises in places like Tehran and other big cities are not designed to go long periods without air conditioning. The water protests have reached several cities in the oil rich southwest. And in the balance are the Vienna nuclear talks and a new incoming Iranian president – the former said to be “stalled” till later in August. Thus the crisis is likely set to get worse for the time being.