A young man was shot dead during a second night of protests over water shortages in southwest Iran, a local official said on July 17, blaming armed protesters for the shooting, Reuters reports according to the state news agency IRNA.
Iran is facing its worst drought in 50 years, with protests breaking out in several cities and towns in the oil-rich Khuzestan province over the water crisis, which has affected households, devastated agriculture and livestock farming, and led to power blackouts.
“During the rally, rioters shot in the air to provoke the people, but unfortunately one of the bullets hit a person present at the scene and killed him,” Omid Sabripour, head of the governorate in the town of Shadegan, told IRNA.
Iranian media broadcast a video of the father of the victim, Mostafa Naimawi, who said his son was shot by rioters and not by government security forces.
“My son was not a trouble maker and had nothing to do with riots and disturbances,” the father, who was not identified by name, said in Arabic on the video that provided a Farsi translation.
Videos posted on social media have shown protesters setting fire to tyres to block roads and security forces trying to disperse crowds as shots were heard. Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the footage.
During some of the protests, people vented their anger with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, chanting “Death to the dictator” and “Death to Khamenei.”
In recent weeks, thousands of workers in Iran’s key energy sector have also held protests, seeking better pay and working conditions in southern gas fields and some refineries in big cities.
U.S. sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic have crippled Iran’s economy. Workers – some complaining that their wages are not being paid – and pensioners have been protesting for months, with discontent growing over high unemployment and an inflation rate of more than 50%.
Street protests broke out overnight over severe water shortages in Iran’s oil-rich southwest, according to Iranian news outlets and videos posted on social media on July 16. The country faces its worst drought in 50 years.
Videos showed protesters setting fire to tyres to block a road, and security forces were seen trying to disperse the crowds as some shots were heard. Reuters could not independently verify the videos’ authenticity.
“State television should report what we are saying and show the image of the buffaloes that perished from lack of water,” an elderly protester said on a video carried by the regional Asrejonoob news website.
In May, Iranian Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian warned of water shortages in the summer, saying this year was “one of the driest in 50 years”.
You may read about Iran facing an unprecedented environmental crisis, with dwindling water resources, rapid desertification, and pollution that chokes its cities here.