Protests in Iran have entered their third week, with marchers reaching Teheran and allegations of mass arrest and use of force by police.
Protests began on July 15 amid a worsening drought and food shortage, the Jerusalem Post reported. It began in Khuzestan, and has since spread throughout the country, and have reached the capital city of Teheran.
Protestors describe the water crisis as the trigger for protesting over a range of issues, such as extended power outages in Tehran, political repression of minorities, such as the Arab Ahwazis in Khuzestan, and the country’s foreign policy. Iran’s focus on aiding foreign allies in the Middle East at the expense of its own domestic policies has long been a source of discontent.
Videos circulating social media show a crowd chanting as cars honk for them, “Neither Gaza nor Lebanon, I will sacrifice my life for Iran!”
They also shouted, “Death to the dictator!”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet condemned the government’s attempts to crackdown on the protests.
“The impact of the devastating water crisis on life, health and prosperity of the people of Khuzestan should be the focus of the Government’s attention, not the protests carried out by people driven to desperation by years of neglect,” Bachelet said. “I am extremely concerned about the deaths and injuries that have occurred over the past week, as well as the widespread arrests and detention.”
According to Amnesty International, eight people, including a teenage boy, have been killed by security forces in seven different cities.
“Iran’s security forces have deployed unlawful force, including by firing live ammunition and birdshot, to crush mostly peaceful protests taking place across the southern province of Khuzestan,” Amnesty International said in a statement. “Video footage from the past week, coupled with consistent accounts from the ground, indicate security forces used deadly automatic weapons, shotguns with inherently indiscriminate ammunition, and tear gas to disperse protesters.”
There have been allegations that the Internet went black in several cities as an attempt to stifle information and video from spreading on social media.
Outgoing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has vowed to open dams to ease the water shortage.