Several people are reported to have been injured as Iranian state security forces and local police fired tear gas and rubber bullets 23 May at demonstrators in the city of Ahvaz, Khuzestan province, who were blocking a highway in protest at the lack of drinking water.
NGO Human Rights Watch reported that: “Local police chief, IRGC Colonel Mohsen Dalvand, who was trying to downplay the protests and shootings at them", told the state official news agency IRNA: “A group of people protested against the lack of water. They closed the Ahvaz-Ramhormoz-Omidieh highway and disrupted the transit route… After the SSF arrived to reopen the road, a number of demonstrators attacked the security forces using rocks and sticks and injured two security officers in the head… The police used anti-riot plastic bullets, injuring two, and arrested them.”
The protest came after several days of no water service in the region that has been plagued by water shortages for years.
According to Dalvand, the protesters were suppressed because they broke the law and action to obtain access to water must be sought through legal means. Nevertheless, he asserted that the authorities have disregarded the people’s repeated demands and suggested that social problems should not turn into security issues.
The Khuzestan region, with over 300 oil wells, is the richest in Iran. Water shortage is a chronic problem in Gheizanieh district, with 83 villages and a population of more than 25,000.