Two dead in protests by Ahwazi Arab minority in Iran – The Jerusalem Post

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Anti-regime protests have been underway in the Iranian Khuzestan Province because of extreme water shortages in the area. Activists have also cited marginalization by the regime because of ethnic differences, as the Ahwaz are Arab and primarily speak Arabic.
Videos on Twitter show protesters lighting fires, demonstrating in the streets, and blocking roads as security forces attempt to disperse them, although the authenticity of these videos cannot be confirmed, in part due to Iran’s limits on information. The Iranian government has confirmed that two protesters have been killed, and activists claim that there was a third.
The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), the government-run news agency, blames the protesters for the death of activists. In an interview with Omid Sabripour, the acting governor in Shadegan in Khuzestan, he said protestors were firing bullets in the air “to provoke the people, but unfortunately one of the bullets hit a person present at the scene and killed him.”
Other interviews with government officials with the IRNA stress calm in the region, blaming international “enemies” for spreading misinformation about tensions.
“Last week we had a few limited protests in some areas of Khuzestan province against the lack of water by the people, which was completely peaceful and ended without clashes with police,” the deputy governor of Khuzestan, Waliullah Hayati, said in an interview with IRNA on Monday. “In the last few days, the sworn enemies of the regime have even assembled clips of clashes between people in other countries and published them in the name of the conflict in Khuzestan, and people should not pay attention to these materials and videos.”
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IRNA also reported that those who shared the videos will “answer for his insults in the court soon.”
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-affiliated Fars News Agency published a video on Sunday interviewing the uncle of 18-year-old Ghasem Kahziri, one of the two protestors who was confirmed killed.
“He was not one to get involved in protests and riots,” Khaziri’s uncle said.
In an interview with the father of Mostafa Naimavi, another protester killed, he emphasized that “rioters and saboteurs shot my son, not the government.”
Social media users and activists have spoken out against the interviews, claiming that they were coerced for the state to distance itself from the deaths.
On the IRNA website, articles focus on government responses to the drought and not the protests themselves, conceding that there are water issues but claiming that the regime has it under control and is allocating resources to fix the issues.
Iran has been plagued by a persistent drought, the worst one in at least 50 years. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani apologized earlier this month for the “unprecedented drought” that causes sweeping blackouts and agricultural devastation around the country. Rouhani also blamed US sanctions for choking investment in energy infrastructure.
Water shortages are especially severe in Iran’s border areas, including Khuzestan, inflaming ethnic tensions. Ahwazis claim that Tehran diverts water from the Khuzestan region, favoring the Persians.
Tensions have long existed between the regime and Ahwazis, as Khuzestan is strategically important, and the government seeks to strengthen their hold. In a report by Javid Rehman, the UN Human Rights Council special rapporteur on Iran, Rehman described “forced evictions in ethnic minority areas.” In 2019, the regime deployed foreign Arab militias in response to Ahwazi unrest from widespread flooding in Khuzestan, including Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces.