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.
Protests began late Thursday in a number of places across Khuzestan province, including the capital, Ahwaz, and continued through Saturday night for the third time.
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 public, and one of the bullets unfortunately hit a person present at the site and killed him,” Shadegan Governor Omid Sabripour said state news agency IRNA.
Iranian officials in the past have blamed protesters’ deaths on other protesters.
Mostafa Naeemawi, a 30-year-old ethnic Arab, was identified as the slain protester. A large ethnic Arab community lives in Khuzestan.
Activists reported two more deaths on Saturday which authorities have yet to comment on.
According to local sources, Arab citizen Qassem Khozeiri, 23, died in hospital on Saturday after being shot by security forces in the town of Kut Abdollah on Friday, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), a news site run by a collective of Iranian human rights advocates.
A third Arab citizen, Ali Mazraeh, died on Saturday after being shot by security forces in Ahwaz, HRANA reported, citing local sources.
According to videos shared on social media, protesters in Susangerd (al-Khafajiya) marched towards the local governor’s office late Saturday, chanting in Arabic, “we will not be humiliated.”
Protesters in Susangard also gathered outside the home of the city’s representative in parliament, Qassem Saedi, chanting “death to Saedi,” another video showed.
On Saturday, some social media users in Khuzestan reported a significant decrease in internet speed. During large anti-government rallies in Iran in 2019, the internet was shut down for several days.
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.
Thousands of workers in Iran’s key energy sector have launched strike demanding better wages and working conditions, prompting the protests in Khuzestan.
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