Protests in the southern Iran city of Khorramshahr turned into an armed confrontation with security forces early Sunday, resulting in injuries among protesters and police, with conflicting reports that one or more demonstrators may have died.
Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) confirmed the clashes in the historically restive Arab-majority city after large protests over clean water shortages in the region began Friday, and after 3 days of economic protests in Tehran resulted in the temporary closure of the Grand Bazaar early last week.
Though the AP confirms that gunfire erupted in Khorrmashahr, it reports multiple injuries and no fatalities as “online videos appear to show Iranian security forces shooting at protesters.”
However Saudi-owned Al Arabiya reported four deaths among protesters on Saturday, and BBC Persian cited at least one death based on an eyewitness account. The Times of Israel echoed regional Arabic press and cited four deaths during the protests.
Meanwhile the AP emphasizes that police were primarily on the receiving end of the violence while citing Iranian media:
Gunfire erupted as Iranian security forces confronted protesters early Sunday amid demonstrations over water scarcity in the country’s south, violence that authorities said wounded at least 11 people, mostly police.
While difficult to verify the exact nature of what’s being shown, multiple social media videos from the clashes purport to show shots fired by police into crowds of demonstrators, and elsewhere armed men opposing police, including a scene of a man wielding an assault rifle on a motorcycle.
The dramatic footage of overnight events in Khorramshahr has pro- and anti-regime activists debating who is to blame for the violence; however, it’s clear from video footage being circulated by both sides that some among the demonstrators were armed — though it should be noted that some activists claim the armed group in the motorbike screen are actually plain clothed security forces.
Regardless, the video confirms shots fired by both sides, and that at least some among the opposition were armed.
Iranian state media and opposition media activists traded blame for a blaze which engulfed a museum in Khorramshahr over the weekend.
The unrest comes amidst an economic crisis sparked by President Trump’s decision with withdraw the US from the Iran nuclear deal and heighten sanctions, with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani saying last week his country is in a “fight” with the US, blaming the attempt to collapse the JCPOA for “an economic war” fueling Iran’s current crisis. “The US cannot defeat our nation, our enemies are not able to get us to their knees,” he said in response to the growing demonstrations.
Currently, a dollar is worth as much as 90,000 rials compared with 65,000 rials before President Trump announced he would pull out from the deal, and compared with 42,890 at the close of 2017. Thus the official government-set exchange rate of 42,000 rials to $1 has been quickly surpassed in the black market, which fueled mass protests in Tehran and reportedly in merchant districts of a few other cities last week.
The weekend protests in Khorramshahr in particular, which lies about 400 miles southwest of Tehran, came after residents complained of salty, muddy water issuing from their taps during a years long drought.
According to a recent report by a recent report by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the last decade of drought in Iran has reached crisis levels: “Although Iran has a history of drought, over the last decade, Iran has experienced its most prolonged, extensive and severe drought in over 30 years,” the report reads.
The Iranian MEK terror cult hosted guest speakers Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich on the same day violence in Iran is all over the news, which is also the same day virulent war whores @McFaul and @BillKristol ramped up calls for Iranian regime change.https://t.co/Ovnhd4ka7V
— Caitlin Johnstone (@caitoz) June 30, 2018
Elsewhere in the country hundreds of deaths have recently been reported based on water poisoning during sporadic outages and shortages — a situation which could get worse due to heightened US sanctions as in some instances the government has failed to properly chlorinate and purify city water supplies.
Meanwhile, events appear to be unfolding in similar fashion to the early phase of protests that gripped mostly provincial cities and towns across Iran in January. While the last week of protests appear isolated and primarily driven by local and regional factors, and fundamentally by the tanking economy, protest videos increasingly show people chanting “death to Khamenei” in reference to Iran’s Supreme Leader.
And notably, the last week has witnessed mass power and internet outages across the country, as Newsweek reports: “Power outages have hit Tehran this week as protests rocked the Iranian capital due to economic woes, which have seen the country’s currency fall rapidly in recent months”.