At least two have been killed after multiple nights of large-scale protests over severe water shortages in Iran's southwest Khuzestan province. The region is said to be experiencing its worst drought in a half-century, which has devastated agriculture and livestock, and left many thousands of homes without water as families plea with authorities for a solution to the crisis.
Al Jazeera reports that the deaths came amid ongoing clashes with police: "Two young men were shot and killed during a second night of protests over water shortages in southwest Iran," citing local reporting. People can be heard in social media videos chanting, "People are thirsty, we want water!"
Over the weekend Iranian authorities blamed "opportunists and rioters" for the violence, with a governor in the region, Omid Sabripour, telling state media:
"During the rally, rioters shot in the air to provoke the people, but unfortunately one of the bullets hit a person present at the scene and killed him," he said.
The protests began last week, with Al Jazeera further noting that hugely provocative chants of "Death to the dictator" and "Death to Khamenei" were heard.
Already throughout the summer other parts of Iran have witnessed protests over severe electricity shortages leading to unplanned, intermittent blackouts - which Tehran officials have actually in some instances admitted is due in large part to mismanagement and neglect, while also blaming US-led sanctions.
Both the energy and water crisis are deepening the outrage of the Iranian populace, particularly during a hot summer, and given apartment high rises in places like Tehran and other big cities are not designed to go long periods without air conditioning. The water protests have reached several cities in the oil rich southwest.
Iran is facing its worst drought in at least 50 years.https://t.co/hpu8f5MYgk— Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (@RFERL) July 17, 2021
The regional news source Iran International previously explained that the country's power consumption this summer "has topped 60,000 megawatts per day, a more than ten percent increase compared with last year, while electricity generation has remained the same at 50,000-56,000 megawatts." And further the report noted:
As electricity remains subsidized and cheap, there is no incentive for people to limit its use. It also makes Iran a magnate for cryptocurrency mining by huge computer farms that are consume perhaps up to ten percent of electricity supplies in the country.
In recent months authorities have vowed to disrupt all illegal crypto mining, despite it once being a key way for the country to offset the severe US sanctions blow under the past Trump administration.
Since 2018, the water crisis has prompted protests in various provinces across the country, including Ardabil in the northwest and Bushehr and Khuzestan in the southwest, with protesters accusing the government of mismanagement and corruptionhttps://t.co/wf31cMpUcJ— Middle East Eye (@MiddleEastEye) July 16, 2021
The Associated Press recently emphasized that the water and electricity crises are closely intertwined: "The country has faced rolling blackouts for weeks now, in part over what authorities describe as a drought striking the nation."
"Precipitation had decreased by almost 50 percent in the last year, leaving dams with dwindling water supplies to fuel the country," the report said.