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Khamenei Representative Apologizes To Young Protester Shot By Plastic Bullets

Woman drawing water from a well in Gheizanieh, Khuzestan. Undated photo.

Iranian news agencies on Monday reported that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's representative in Khuzestan has visited the families of those injured with plastic bullets on May 23 during protests for lack of drinking water.

In a video published by Fars News Agency, Seyed Abdolnabi Mousavifard, Khamenei's representative in the oil-rich province, is seen at the home of a young man whose leg was badly injured by anti-riot plastic bullets during the peaceful protest rally.

Photos of the young man and his injured leg have widely been circulated on social media. The incident has turned into the hottest issue on Iranian social media in the past few days.

"I'm here to apologize to this young man," Khamenei's representative tells the young man and his family in the video.

Widespread protests shook Iran last November when security forces killed hundreds of protesters. Another wave of protests cannot be ruled out given the country's dire economic situation.

Security forces fired tear gas and plastic bullets into the crowd of residents in Gheizaniyeh district, 45 kilometers from the provincial capital Ahvaz. The residents of the district had gathered in front of the district governor's office and then blocked a road in protest to their drinking water being cut-off.

The Police Commander of Ahvaz claimed that the police had to use anti-riot plastic bullets when the protesters attacked the police with stones and sticks.

President Hassan Rouhani on Monday instructed the Minister of Energy and the Governor of Khuzestan to take immediate measures to resolve the problem of drinking water in the district. The Governor, Gholamreza Shariati, has also apologized to the residents and promised to resolve their water issue within two weeks.

Water shortage is a chronic problem in Gheizanieh, a district with 83 villages and a population of more than 25,000 as well as in many other areas of the province.

Khuzestan, one of Iran's 31 provinces lies in the southwest of the country and is known for its ethnic diversity and a history of Arab separatism. The province is home to Yadavaran oil field and holds around 80% of Iran's onshore oil reserves and is rich in rivers and water reservoirs but suffers from underdevelopment, lack of drinking water and poverty in many areas.

Khuzestan has also been hit hard by coronavirus and is currently one of the hotspots of the epidemic in the country that according to official figures has killed nearly 7,500 in the country since February.