The expansion of protests over the diversion of Ahvaz rivers and the drying up of wetlands in southwestern Iran threatens to spread across the country, two weeks before the inauguration of President-elect Ibrahim Raisi.
Calls spread for protests to be held in Iranian cities in solidarity with the movement in Ahvaz. Videos showed Iranians chanting “Death to Wilayat al-Faqih” and “Death to the Islamic Republic” at Sadiqiyah, the second largest station in the west of Tehran.
In the northwestern provinces of the country, which are predominantly Azeri, posters in the Turkish language were spread expressing solidarity with the Arab cities in the south.
This came following the fifth night of protests in the city of Ahvaz, during which demonstrators tried to reach the central areas of the province, chanting slogans condemning the policies of the Iranian regime.
Authorities cut the internet from mobile phone service in several areas, according to local reports.
In the west of Ahwaz, the city of Khafajia witnessed a tumultuous night on Monday, when thousands of people marched towards the city center, before organizing a sit-in in front of the governor’s headquarters, demanding that he submit his resignation.
The anti-riots forces, which had deployed in the city on Sunday night and fired at the protesters, withdrew on Monday after sharp criticism over the authorities’ resorting to the use of excessive violence
Activists in Ahvaz said that the authorities continued to arrest protesters in various areas, but no figures were published on the exact number of detainees.
Meanwhile, outgoing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani maintained silence over the suppression of the protests, while conservative figures pointed to the “mismanagement” that led to deteriorating conditions in the oil-rich province.
The former reformist President Mohammad Khatami expressed his regret over the killing and wounding of the demonstrators. He said: “People are truly upset, protesting against what is happening. Peaceful protest is a right for the people and citizens.”
For his part, former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad criticized the suppression of the demonstrations, declaring his solidarity with the protesters’ demands.