Violent clashes between residents of neighboring cities in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, southwest Iran, have left several wounded, state-run media reported March 20.
Images and video clips circulated on social media purport to show the scene of the confrontation on the border of the two ancient cities, Andimeshk and Dezful.
The governor of Khuzestan Province, Gholamreza Stariati, says the conflict stems from the relocation of a sign marking the boundary between the two cities.
Gunshots were heard at the scene, according to Iran’s official news agency, IRNA. "Nearby Jondishapour University was damaged during the clashes, and several people were injured,” IRNA reported.
Based on the 2016 census, the population of Andimeshk is 135,116, while Dezful, ten kilometers (approximately six miles) to the south, has 264,709 inhabitants.
Stariati said the dispute began eleven months ago when a sign setting the boundary between the two cities collapsed in a storm. Last February, when Dezful municipality re-installed the sign, people of Andimeshk rushed to the scene to prevent the installation and violence ensued. Residents of Andimeshk claimed the sign was placed on their own territory.
The Friday Prayer Leader of Dezful, cleric Mohammad Ali Qazi, condemned this act, saying that there were pictures of "martyrs" who had died in Syria on the sign.
Qazi was referring to the images of Afghans hired by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Qods Force to fight alongside forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
Footage of clashes circulated on social media shows a half-burnt sign with the images of the Islamic Republic's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and the current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Other images show security forces firing tear gas canisters into the crowd.
Radio Farda could not independently confirm the authenticity of the images.
According to unconfirmed reports, the security councils of both cities have held a meeting to try to resolve the conflict, and Governor Stariati traveled to the area.
Furthermore, IRNA reported that Dezful's Prosecutor, Mansour Mohammadi Khabbaz, has insisted in a meeting with the governor that the sign be installed on the disputed spot. Residents of Andimeshk say that the spot is 500 meters (approximately 0.3 miles) into their city's territory.