By John Clise
The Iranian water crisis has come to a head with international human rights groups alleging the government is using unlawful and excessive force in a crackdown against protests over water shortages in its oil-rich but arid southwestern Khuzestan province.
According to Amnesty International, Iran’s security forces have deployed unlawful force, including by firing live ammunition and birdshot, to crush mostly peaceful protests taking place across the southern province of Khuzestan, Amnesty International said today. Video footage from the past week, coupled with consistent accounts from the ground, indicate security forces used deadly automatic weapons, shotguns with inherently indiscriminate ammunition, and tear gas to disperse protesters.
“Using live ammunition against unarmed protesters posing no imminent threat to life is a horrifying violation of the authorities’ obligation to protect human life. Protesters in Iran who take to the streets to voice legitimate economic and political grievances face a barrage of gunfire, tear gas, and arrests,” said Diana Eltahawy, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa said in a statement released by the group.
International press members have reported hearing firearm discharges at various protests that could be the result of live ammunition being used to subdue protestors.
According to reports several individuals including a teenage boy has been killed during protests.
Human Rights Watch has reported internet shutdowns in the area, and that “over the past three years, authorities have frequently restricted access to information during protests”.
The drought in the area began to worsen in March of this year after several years of affecting the region with water shortages.
According to a release by Amnesty International, Iran has experienced a worsening water crisis in recent years depriving people of their right to clean and safe water and leading to several protests including in Khuzestan. Environmental researchers say the authorities have failed to take adequate action to address the crisis.
Ned Price, U.S. Department of State spokesperson released the following statement:
“Protests in Iran that began with a water shortage — owing to drought and governmental mismanagement and neglect — in the Khuzestan province have now spread across various cities including Tehran, Karaj and Tabriz. The Iranian people are now putting a spotlight not only on their unmet needs, but also their unfulfilled aspirations for respect for human rights — rights to which individuals the world over are entitled.
The Iranian people have a right to voice their frustrations and hold their government accountable, but we have seen disturbing reports that security forces fired on protesters, resulting in multiple deaths. We condemn the use of violence against peaceful protestors. We support the rights of Iranians to peacefully assemble and express themselves, without fear of violence and detention by security forces. We are also monitoring reports of internet slowdowns in the region.
We urge the Iranian government to allow its citizens to exercise their right to freedom of expression and to freely access information, including via the Internet.”