Iran: Protests over water shortage turns deadly, 1 killed

A man was killed during protests over severe water shortages in south-west Iran, state media reports.

An official in Khuzestan province said the protester was accidentally hit by people who were firing in the air, according to state news agency IRNA.

However, the opposition has accused the government security forces for causing the death.

Iran is facing a severe drought, and there is growing public anger over water and power shortages.

The death happened in the town of Shadegan, and pictures of the man have been shared widely across social media.

“In this gathering, the rioters started shooting in the air to provoke people and, unfortunately, one of the bullets hit a person present there, killing him,” Acting Governor Omid Sabripour told IRNA.

The man has been identified as a member of the ethnic Arab minority that is based in Khuzestan, located on the border with Iraq. Opposition media based outside the country say he was killed by the security forces, with reports that they opened fire on the demonstrations.

Iranian authorities have downplayed the scale of the protests, which have been held in several of the oil-rich province’s towns and cities.

Videos said to be from the demonstrations and posted online show people setting fire to tyres to block roads. In one of them, security forces are seen following a crowd in helmets and camouflage fatigues.

On Friday, the Iranian government sent a delegation to the region to address the protesters’ grievances.

The water crisis has devastated agriculture and livestock farming and led to electricity blackouts.

The authorities blame reduced rainfall for the situation, saying many hydroelectric power plants are not operating and electricity consumption has surged as people use air conditioning to cope with the intense summer heat.

But many locals say the problem is mismanagement and corruption.

Iran’s economy has been crippled by US sanctions and the Covid-19 pandemic. In recent weeks, thousands of workers in Iran’s oil industry have been on strike, demanding better wages and working conditions.