The water crisis is intensifying in Iran. Khuzestan, home to Iran’s main oil fields, has been hit since the end of March by a drought that has sparked protests in several cities since last week. A policeman was killed by “rioters”, the official Irna agency reported on Wednesday.
Facts. “During the riots on Tuesday evening in Talaqani (editor’s note: a district of the port city of Mahshahr), officers (…) were shot from a roof”, according to Fereydoun Bandari, acting governor of the county, quoted by Irna. A policeman was killed and another injured in the leg, he added.
The governor did not say whether the protests in Mahshahr were linked to those shaking the rest of the province. One person had already been killed on Friday during rallies in the town of Chadégan, 70 kilometers south of Ahvaz, the provincial capital, according to Irna.
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Internet access is disrupted in Ahvaz and completely cut off in Chadégan, the reformist daily wrote at around midnight on Tuesday evening. Etemad. The “courageous people” of Khuzestan, a province devastated by the war between Iran and Iraq (1980-1988), “want water, that’s all,” another reformist headline wrote on Tuesday, Arman- e Melli.
Why it matters. In recent days, Persian-language media from abroad have reported on protests suppressed by the security forces, while the Iranian media were initially rather silent on the subject. Videos published by these media and on social networks and whose authenticity AFP could not verify show hundreds of people demonstrating, surrounded by riot police. The site France 24 Observers posted several videos of the protests.
“We have strongly insisted on the fact that the security forces do not violently confront the population, and even less that they open fire”, affirmed Tuesday the governor of Khuzestan, Qassem Soleimani-Dachtaki, quoted by the agency. Isna. “The people are dear to us,” he said.
The reformist newspaper Sazandegi called on the outgoing president, Hassan Rohani, and his elected successor, Ebrahim Raïssi, to travel to the province to speak to the demonstrators, “to promise improvements and to ask them to return home”. The government sent a delegation of deputy ministers there on Friday.
On Wednesday, state television showed footage of long lines of trucks carrying water, indicating that they had been sent to Khuzestan by the Revolutionary Guards, the ideological army of the Islamic Republic.
The context. Khuzestan, where the main Iranian oil fields are located, is home to a large Arab minority. The population regularly complains of being left behind by the authorities. The province had been one of the hot spots of the wave of protest – violently repressed – against power in November 2019.
“There had been warning signs of protests in the province for a while, but the authorities, as always, waited until the last minute” to take them into account, said Etemad. The Arabic hashtag “I’m thirsty” is widely used on local social networks to draw attention to the plight of Khuzestan, according to the daily.
Khuzestan has been hit since the end of March by a drought that has led to protests in several cities. More broadly, Iran, an arid country, has experienced chronic drought for several years. Since the beginning of the month, many cities in the country have been subject to frequent power cuts, the result, according to the government, of a drought of an unprecedented scale for 11 years that has severely affected the reservoirs of hydroelectric dams from the country.
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Once very fertile (it was the cradle of the Elamite civilization, which reached its peak in the second millennium BC), the Khuzestan plain is regularly hit by drought and by sandstorms from Iraq or the peninsula. Arabic, phenomena that have been growing for more than fifteen years.
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