(L-R) Ali Mazraeh, Mostafa Naeemawi, and Qassem Khozeiri died after being shot by security forces during protests in southwest Iran. (Twitter)

July 19, 2021

The death toll from street protests over water shortages in Iran’s oil-rich southwest rose to three, activists said on Saturday, as demonstrations continued for a third consecutive night.

The protests began late on Thursday in multiple cities in Khuzestan province, including its capital, Ahwaz, and continued for a third consecutive night on Saturday.

A local official said on Saturday a man was killed during Friday’s protests in the city of Shadegan (al-Falahiya) in Khuzestan after being accidentally shot by armed protesters. Activists said he was shot dead by security forces.

“During the rally, rioters shot in the air to provoke the people and, unfortunately, one of the bullets hit a person present at the scene and killed him,” Omid Sabripour, the head of the governorate in Shadegan, told state news agency IRNA.

Iranian officials in the past have blamed protesters’ deaths on other protesters.

The slain protester was identified as Mostafa Naeemawi, a 30-year-old ethnic Arab. Khuzestan is home to a large ethnic Arab population.

Activists reported two more deaths on Saturday which authorities have yet to comment on.

Citing local sources, the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), a news site run by a collective of Iranian human rights advocates, reported that Arab citizen Qassem Khozeiri, 23, died in hospital on Saturday after being shot by security forces in the town of Kut Abdollah on Friday.

A third Arab citizen, Ali Mazraeh, died on Saturday after being shot by security forces in Ahwaz, HRANA reported, citing local sources.

Protesters in the city of Susangerd (al-Khafajiya) marched towards the local governor’s office late on Saturday, chanting, “we will not be humiliated” in Arabic, according to videos shared on social media.

Protesters in Susangard also gathered outside the home of the city’s representative in parliament, Qassem Saedi, chanting “death to Saedi,” another video showed.

Some social media users also reported a significant decrease in internet speed in Khuzestan on Saturday. Iran shut down access to the internet for several days during widespread anti-government protests in 2019.

The water crisis has devastated agriculture and livestock farming and caused power outages which sparked protests in several cities earlier this month.

Authorities have blamed the water shortages on a severe drought, but protesters say the government is to blame. Activists from Khuzestan blame the water crisis on what they call the government’s discriminatory policies – such as the excessive transfer of water from Khuzestan to ethnically Persian provinces – which they say are designed to change the region’s demography.

The protests in Khuzestan come as thousands of workers in Iran’s key energy sector have launched strikes for better wages and working conditions.

Iran’s economy has been hit hard since 2018 when former US President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers and reimposed sweeping sanctions on the country. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the country’s economic problems.

Al Arabiya

About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.