Protests against water shortages took place in southwestern Iran on the 17th (local time). Citizens who were suffering from heat exceeding 50 degrees and extreme drought took to the streets, saying, “Give me water.” As the protests intensified, a passerby was shot and killed.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported that protests against water shortages continued for the second day in a village in the southwestern Iranian province of Khuzestan. Protesters chanted slogans such as “I am thirsty,” “Water is my right,” and “Death to Khamenei,” the Voice of America (VOA) reported.
Police fired tear gas to quell the protesters, and a 30-year-old passerby was shot and killed. The cause of death was divided between police and protesters. Police said the protesters shot in the air to incite people, and a person at the scene was struck and killed. Protesters, on the other hand, claimed that the police had opened fire. Iranian media broadcast video footage of the victim’s father, Mostafa Naimawi, claiming that “my son was shot by a mob, not by government forces.” “My son was not a troublemaker and had nothing to do with the riots and commotion,” he said in the video.
Iran is suffering its worst drought in 50 years. Iran’s average rainfall this year has decreased by 52% compared to the previous year. Even President Hassan Rouhani said this year’s drought was “unprecedented”. Summer heat and seasonal sandstorms have hit Iran and Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
In particular, despite the large dam in Khujestan, protesters’ complaints exploded due to the lack of water. The protesters claimed that not only did the government fail to manage water resources properly, but they also brought water from this area to other areas, causing water shortages. Khuzestan is a place where many Sunnis live, who are marginalized in Iran, where Shiite Muslims are the mainstream. It was the epicenter of anti-government protests in 2019.
Iran has been suffering from frequent power outages since the beginning of this month. The increase in electricity demand and the decrease in the amount of hydroelectric power generation due to drought are cited as the causes. On the 4th, protests were held in the vicinity of Tehran, in several northern cities, and in the southern Pars province to protest the power outage. In some cities, slogans such as “Death to the dictator” and “Death to Khamenei” were issued.
Iran’s 1979 pro-democracy revolution overthrew the Pahlavi monarchy and introduced a unique political system that granted supreme power to Islamic religious leaders. Unlike the president, who is directly elected, the supreme leader, who serves for life, is indirectly elected by the National Leaders’ Council. The current supreme leader is Ayatollah Ali Khamene, who has been in office since 1989.
Iran, which had expected sanctions relief after signing the Iran Nuclear Agreement (JCPOA) with the U.S. government in 2015, became economically impoverished in 2018 as the U.S. government broke the JCPOA by Donald Trump in 2018. The loss of oil and other goods due to sanctions has caused more than $1 trillion in damage to Iran. The economy was devastated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Iranian workers have been protesting for months, protesting over 50% inflation and hardships, Reuters reported.
Not only Iran, but most of the Middle East is suffering from drought, power outages and heat waves. In Iraq, protests have been held since early this month to protest the ceasefire. The demand for electricity in the summer skyrocketed as the highest temperature in the southern Basra region rose to 52 degrees on the 1st. Iran’s electricity shortage has also affected Iraq, which relies on Iran for a third of its electricity supply.
Iraqi citizens, unable to turn on fans due to power outages, eat and sleep in air-conditioned cars and shower several times a day, local media reported. “I even put the baby in the refrigerator for a few minutes to cool it down,” Ali Kara, a resident of Basra, told AFP. “The heat is driving people crazy,” said one protester who occupied a power plant in protest of the blackout.
Lebanon, which is tied in the ‘Shia belt’ along with Iran, Iraq and Syria, is also suffering from electricity shortages, inflation, and currency depreciation. In Syria, which has been in a civil war for 10 years, electricity is only available for four hours a day, Al Jazeera TV reported.