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.
#Breaking: Several people were killed and wounded in protest against the Islamic Republic of Iran in #Khorramshahr. The protests are still ongoing. People slogan: "Down with Islamic Reupblic"#Iranprotests pic.twitter.com/yKkeyjqH8x— Mehdi Mirghaderi 👑 (@mobarez_nastooh) June 30, 2018
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.
Khoramshar water shortage protest turned violent tonight.— Sayed Mousavi 🇮🇷🇵🇸 (@SayedMousavi7) June 30, 2018
What we know:
-At least 2 protesters shot, possibly by getting close to military zones
-Mobs set 2 museums on fire (reports)
-1 hour of calm
- No base takeovers(anti-regime journos have claimed)
- Armed bike is suspicious pic.twitter.com/lwWr9lHcY3
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.
BBC Persian shows civilians fleeing tear gas, and other clips of automatic fire erupting as well as fires being set along roads.
تیراندازی در خرمشهر— BBC NEWS فارسی (@bbcpersian) June 30, 2018
شاهدان عینی از وقوع تیراندازی در خرمشهر، چهارراه مطهری خبر دادهاند
خرمشهر در روزهای اخیر شاهد برگزاری تجمعات اعتراضی بوده. این ویدیوها را مخاطبان از ناآرامیهای امشب فرستادهاند pic.twitter.com/g8L4fwnsK9
Arab Gulf media, especially networks based in the UAE and Saudi Arabia gave close coverage to what they dubbed "regime change" protests.
Police deployed tear gas, but in other videos there appears to be an exchange of gunfire, which protesters blamed on security forces.
Demonstrators can be seen attacking a police vehicle, and there are conflicting reports of at least one dead among those protesting the regime.
Regime forces have killed an #Iranian demonstrator in Khoramshahr, a city which bravely resisted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during the war & now resists the dictator Ayatollah Khamenei. pic.twitter.com/hs44jMLt4V— Alireza Nader (@AlirezaNader) June 30, 2018
Heavy machine gun can be heard in multiple videos posted to social media showing different locations purportedly within the city of Khorramshahr.
Any government that kills its own people in the streets has zero legitimacy.#Iran regime will answer for its crimes against the #Iranian people. who just want water.#Khoramshahr #WalkAway #IranProtests pic.twitter.com/Mc1cObe2m8— mahsti25 (@mahsti25metana1) July 1, 2018
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.
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".
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
This weekend's significant clashes in Khorramshahr occurred simultaneously with a major annual conference hosted Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) — an organization synonymous with the controversial opposition group in exile, Mujahideen e Khalq (MEK) — considered by Iran and many other countries as a terror organization (and not long ago by the US State Deptartment, though delisted as a terror group under Obama )
The MEK has for years received broad financial and political support from within the Washington mainstream, with dozens of sitting Congressmen and notable US politicians having attended their international conferences on an annual basis.
Rudy Giuliani said at the NCRI/MEK conference on Saturday that Trump will suffocate Iran’s “dictatorial ayatollahs” and indicated that new sanctions were aimed at regime change.
"Next year at this time I want us to have this convention in Tehran" Guiliani told the "Free Iran" convention:
Rudy Giuliani tells #FreeIran2018 convention the #IranProtests will lead to end of Iran's mullah regime: "Next year at this time I want us to have this convention in Tehran". @realDonaldTrump @DonaldJTrumpJr @EricTrump @IvankaTrump @seanhannity @SebGorka @parscale @JesseBWatters pic.twitter.com/mIW8rNGUuM— M. Hanif Jazayeri (@HanifJazayeri) June 30, 2018
“I can’t speak for the president, but it sure sounds like he doesn’t think there is much of a chance of a change in behavior unless there is a change in people and philosophy,” Giuliani told Reuters at the event in Villepinte, north of Paris.
“We are the strongest economy in the world ... and if we cut you off then you collapse,” he said while referencing the recent protests in Iran.
“Anybody who thinks the Ayatollahs are honest people is a fool. They are crooks and that’s what Europe is propping up ... murderers and sponsors of terrorism. Instead of taking an opportunity to topple them they are now left propping them up,” Giuliani said referencing is longtime stance supporting regime change in Tehran.
With the weekend protests in Khorramshahr devolving into a major armed clash with authorities, and with Iran regime change rhetoric among Western political leaders back in the spotlight, we could be witnessing the opening act of much more to come.