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Authorities Admit At Least 11 Injured In Protests Over Lack Of Water

Protest in Khoramshahr southern Iran

An Iranian Interior Ministry official has acknowledged on Sunday July 1 that 11 demonstrators have been wounded in the port city of Khorramshahr after security forces opened fire on hundreds of demonstrators protesting to the shortage and poor quality of drinking water.

The Interior Ministry called for calm on Sunday after protests in the southern city over water shortages turned violent overnight with reports of police shooting at demonstrators who attacked banks and public buildings.

The local governor of Khorramshahr, a port city at Iran’s southern borders with Iraq, has refuted earlier reports that said security forces had shot dead at least one demonstrator in the protests that took place on Saturday, June 30.

Radio Farda cannot independently verify any of the claims made by these officials.

After the governor’s announcement, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahamani Fazli also told reporters, "No one has been killed in the unrest.” However, he claimed that “only one demonstrator was wounded in a shooting," the state news agency IRNA quoted him as saying.

Meanwhile, in an unusual announcement, Khorramshahr’s governor, told media in Iran that the city’s water has been desalinated. “The water is now sweet,” Iranian media quoted Valiollah Hayati as saying.

This comes while the town’s Water Authority Chief Gholamreza Pourjalali told the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) on Sunday July 1, ““the degree of salination now is consistent with the situation at the same time in previous years,” adding that “Khorramshahr has left the water crisis behind”.

Residents have been complaining for a at least two weeks about the taste and color of tap water and videos on social media showed a brown fluid running out of taps in Khorramshahr.

Hundreds of residents held rallies on June 30 in protest of salty drinking water and its rationing.

Assembled in front of the place allocated for weekly Friday Prayer, the protesters demanded drinkable water for the people of the inland port city.

According to Iran’s official news agency, IRNA, the demonstrators, carrying empty plastic water containers, started their protest at 11 a.m., chanting slogans in Persian and Arabic against the authorities responsible for the shortage of potable water in Khorramshahr.

“We do not need inefficient managers,” “In the name of religion, they [the Iranian authorities] plundered us,” and “Get lost, governor!” the enraged demonstrated chanted.

By Saturday evening the protests turned violent. With protesters clashing with security forces. The online videos show protesters clashing with security forces and tear gas being used.

Radio Farda cannot independently verify the authenticity of this video.

The previous day Khorramshahr’s Friday Prayer leader, mid-ranking cleric Abdon-Nabi Moussavi Far, arrived and started his weekly sermon, the demonstrators left the place in anger and continued their protest across the city.

The venues for Friday Prayer have recently become focal points for people protesting a myriad of issues, including a lack of potable water and water mismanagement. Protesters say they have lost hope in Rouhani’s government and decided to present their complaints at the weekly gatherings hosted by Friday Prayer leaders, who are picked under the direct supervision of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Angry farmers, protesting a controversial water distribution project in Isfahan, on March 16 turned their backs to the prayer leader, as they chanted, “Turning away from the enemy, eying the motherland.”

On April 13, the prayer leader chided the protesters, saying repeated protests and their slogans show that the protesters are after “unrest and sedition.”

Nevertheless, the protesters in another city, Kazeroon, followed in the footsteps of farmers from Isfahan and stormed the city’s Friday Prayer venue on April 20 chanting slogans against the city’s MP as well as the state-run radio and TV, which aired developments in Gaza instead of covering the protests.

Protesters in front of the Friday Prayer site in Kazeroon turned the four-decade-old Iranian slogan “Death to America” on its head by chanting “Our enemy’s right here; they lie and say it’s America!”

Meanwhile, residents of Abadan, neighboring Khorramshahr, have been also enraged by the low quality of water and its shortage.

“Our water is not only overly salty, but it has an unpleasant smell, making it undrinkable,” a resident of Abadan told Radio Farda on June 29. “People are forced to buy water that is also highly salty.”

The water circulated in Abadan is so salty that home filters are incapable of desalinating it, reported Tasnim news agency, affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Earlier, on June 20, the citizens of Abadan held a similar rally in front of the city’s water and sewage system offices, protesting salty and undrinkable water and rations.

However, the governor-general of Khuzestan and several other officials of the province have promised to end the water shortage in the cities of Abadan and Khorramshahr in a few weeks, immediately after the second line of the Ghadir 2 water distribution system becomes fully operational.

The Ghadir water distribution project was launched eight years ago to address the problem of a water shortage in Khuzestan cities based on their priority, including Abadan, Andimeshk, Dezful, Khorramshahr, Masjid Soleiman, and Shushtar.

The level of the salt in Abadan’s water has reached a point that it forced managers of the city’s petrochemical complex to shut down a number of its units for 48 hours.

In the meantime, thousands of residents in different cities of Khuzestan Province have repeatedly accused the Iranian authorities of exporting the province’s drinkable water to neighboring countries.

Iran signed a deal with Kuwait in 2003 to deliver 955 million liters of fresh water daily to the Arab state via a pipeline for 30 years. Tehran has not signed such an agreement with Iraq. But an Iraqi TV news report broadcast about a month ago and monitored by VOA Persian showed Iraqis in the southeastern city of Basra lining up to receive what the report said was fresh water supplied from nearby Iran.