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Iran's Rowhani says water protests 'legitimate'

Published July 22,2021
Iran's President Hassan Rowhani has said that the demonstrations against water shortages in the south-west of the country are legitimate but warned they could escalate.

"While the protests of the people of Khuzestan Province are legitimate, they should not allow Iran's enemies to politically exploit them," the outgoing president said in a statement from Thursday.

Rowhani asked demonstrators to distance themselves from "villains" who were ready to use violence and who had completely different goals from the peaceful protesters, in the message published on the website of Iran's Presidential Office.

Since last week, there have been repeated protests against water shortages in several towns in Khuzestan province, including clashes between demonstrators and police which Tehran blames on "rioters and counter-revolutionary terrorists."

According to official figures, at least two protesters and one police officer have died so far, and dozens were injured. Eyewitnesses say the number of fatalities and causalities is much higher, however.

Several demonstrators were said to have been arrested after shouting slogans critical of the government.

Water shortages in Iran are common due to frequent droughts, but Khuzestan was hit particularly hard this year, with temperatures reaching 50 degrees.

Rowhani is accused of not renovating the outdated water infrastructure in the last eight years. Rowhani, however, blames the economic crisis caused by US sanctions.

The Iranian government fears that the protests could spread to other provinces in the country and set a group of delegates to Khuzestan.

Videos circulating on social media on Tuesday show dozens of people in a subway station in Tehran shouting slogans against the government and the establishment.