IHR Gravely Concerned About Fate of Detained Protesters and Rising Death Toll

July 26, 2021, 4:49 p.m.

Iran Human Rights (IHR); July 26, 2021: Eleven days after the peaceful Khuzestan protests began due to water shortages, protests have spread to Isfahan, Kurdistan, East Azerbaijan, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, North Khorasan, Lorestan, Bushehr, Alborz and Tehran provinces. There are also reports of live ammunition being used to suppress the protests resulting in at least ten protesters being killed in Khuzestan and Lorestan and widespread arrests across Iran.

While condemning the use of live ammunition against protesters in the strongest terms, Iran Human Rights expresses its grave concern about the fate of the detained protesters.

“We are gravely concerned that as with previous protests, authorities will falsify cases against the detainees based on forced confessions extracted under torture in order to justify killing peaceful protesters,” said Iran Human Rights Director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam.

“We call on the international community to pay urgent attention to the nationwide protests and to establish a fact-finding mission to hold those ordering and shooting at protesters accountable,” he added.

According to reports, widespread protests against the water crisis and mismanagement in cities across Khuzestan began on the evening of July 15 and have continued until today. Of the eight confirmed protesters killed in the first few days, only four have been announced by authorities.

Videos published on social media show security forces using more violence in the predominantly Arab province of Khuzestan and Lorestan, home to the Lor ethnic minorities. All confirmed deaths have so far taken place in those two provinces. Shots can be heard in videos from Khuzestan and Lorestan and Amnesty International has confirmed that live ammunition has been used.

There are also reports of widespread internet disruptions by some phone companies in the cities of Ahvaz, Susangerd, Shadegan, Hamidieh, Izeh, Mahshahr and other cities in Khuzestan province.

According to local sources in Susangerd, Shadegan, Hamidieh and Mahshahr, security and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces have been conducting house to house arrests of young people, teenagers and even children.

On July 24, large protests took place in Tabriz, East Azerbaijan province, in support of the Khuzestan protesters. Videos shared on social media also show protests in support of Khuzestan taking place in Saghez, Kurdistan province, the Mohmmadshahr-Kianmehr road in Alborz province, Bojnourd in North Khorasan province and Shahinshahr in Isfahan. Protests also took place in Tehran today.

Prominent civil activists and former political prisoners have also expressed their support for the nationwide protests.

Khuzestan province has faced unprecedented water shortages following low rainfalls and mismanagement, which has created severe problems for farmers and people in the region.

According to experts, another reason for water shortages in Khuzestan province, where important rivers such as Dez, Karkheh and Karun flow through, is the construction of dams and water transfer projects from these rivers.

Government officials have been ignoring warnings from environmental activists and water experts for years. Instead, they have been arresting, torturing and imprisoning environmental activists on false charges.