Water crisis protests rage while Tehran lockdown fuels anti-government sentiment

By Asia News

For the sixth night in a row, street protests have taken place in southwest Iran, triggered by a serious water crisis. In recent days, two people have died in clashes between the civilian population and the police.

Meanwhile, the discontent is spreading across the country and has reached the capital, which has been in lockdown for a few days due to a new outbreak of Covid-19 infections; groups of inhabitants have been chanting anti-government slogans and chants, also against the Supreme Leader.

Videos  posted on social networks show security forces firing water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd. The semi-official Fars news agency spoke of a policeman killed and a colleague wounded by “rioters” in the port city of Mahshahr, in the province of Khuzestan. In Izeh some citizens invoked “Reza Shah”, a reference to the king who founded the Pahlavi dynasty overthrown by the Islamic revolution in 1979.

In the capital, opposition groups and activists called for support for protesters in Khuzestan. Accepting the call, some citizens of Tehran posted videos last night and this morning of people chanting ‘Down with the Islamic Republic’ in a metro station. During the night, slogans were also heard against the highest state authority, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

According to the dissident movement Human Rights Activists News Agency (Hrana) there have been at least 31 protests across Iran in the past two days, including demonstrations by workers and farmers. The country is facing its worst drought in 50 years, with a water crisis (exacerbated by US sanctions) that has affected families, agriculture, livestock and caused numerous power cuts.

The coronavirus emergency is witnessing a surge of cases. In the last 24 hours, the Islamic Republic has recorded 27,444 new infections and 250 deaths. According to the Tasnim news agency, which cites sources in the Ministry of Health, this is the highest number of deaths in the last two months. The overall toll of the pandemic in Iran has risen to 87,624 deaths and 3,576,100 infections. In the meantime, the government has imposed a new lockdown, the fifth so far, in the provinces of Tehran and Alborz, closing bazaars, markets, public offices, cinemas, gyms and restaurants until 26 July.

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