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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 July 2018

Videos show gunfire amid Iran protests over water scarcity

Videos emerged early Sunday of Iranians protesting water scarcity around Khorramshahr

Iranian protesters shout slogans as they gather at a street close to a bazaar in Tehran, Iran, on June 25. 2018. EPA
Iranian protesters shout slogans as they gather at a street close to a bazaar in Tehran, Iran, on June 25. 2018. EPA

Videos posted to social media purportedly showed Iranian authorities shooting at protesters in the country’s south.

Videos emerged early on Sunday of Iranians protesting water scarcity around Khorramshahr, about 650 kilometres southwest of Tehran, where the residents of the predominantly Arab city near the border with Iraq complain of salty, muddy water coming out of their taps amid a yearslong drought.

Protesters threw stones and debris at security officers, who responded with tear gas, reported the state-run IRNA news agency. It made no mention of gunfire. Authorities said one person was injured.

Protests began in Khorramshahr, Abadan and other areas of Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan province on Friday. The demonstrations initially were peaceful, with protesters chanting in both Arabic and Farsi.

But late Saturday and into early Sunday morning, protesters began throwing stones and confronting security forces in Khorramshahr, according to widely shared online videos.

Heavy rifle and machine gunfire rang out, with one video showing demonstrators dragging away a man who could not walk. Another video appeared to show a man carrying a Kalashnikov assault rifle on the back of a motorcycle near protesters.

Exacerbating that unrest is the drought. The Iran Meteorological Organisation estimates 97 per cent of the country faced some form of drought.

"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," said a recent report by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation.

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The demonstrations overnight follow three days of protests in the capital, where people confronted police outside parliament and the authorities fired tear gas at them. The events resulted in the temporary shutdown of Tehran’s Grand Bazaar.

Traders in the bazaar — the hub of merchants who backed Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution that ousted the long-time monarch — closed their shops to voice their anger at currency plunges.

Iran's rial has lost 40 per cent of its value since President Donald Trump's decision on May 8 to pull the United States out of Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and reimpose tough economic sanctions on Tehran.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had said that those "who disrupt economic security" must be punished.

The protests resembled nationwide demonstrations in January that were originally sparked by economic hardships but turned political. However, the protests earlier this year took place largely in Iran's provinces rather than in Tehran.

Most international sanctions imposed on Iran were lifted in early 2016 under the nuclear deal that saw Iran curbing its disputed nuclear programme under close UN monitoring.