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Iran's Rouhani Says Water Protesters Have 'Right' to Demonstrate

Iran's Rouhani Says Water Protesters Have 'Right' to Demonstrate

Friday, 23 July, 2021 - 06:45
Arabs in Ahvaz protesting water diversion project (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Iranian President Hasan Rouhani admitted that Khuzestan people have the right to protest, stressing that tolerating water shortage and heat above 50 degrees is "very hard and exhausting and people have the right to protest the current situation."

He described people's protest in the difficult and unbearable conditions caused by the drought and extreme heat in Khuzestan as the right of the people of the province and emphasized, "We must respect the rights of the protesters and listen to their words."

Protests renewed in several cities in Ahvaz on Wednesday over the diversion of Ahvaz rivers and the drying up of wetlands in southwestern Iran.

Several cities held protests in solidarity with the movement in Ahvaz, with videos from Isfahan, Bushehr, and Tehran circulating online and Iranians chanting "Death to Wilayat al-Faqih" and "Death to the Dictator."

Rouhani noted that "we must not allow illegal behavior of a few to cause the rightful protest of the people of Khuzestan not to be heard."

"It is possible that a malicious person could take advantage of the situation, come in the middle of it all and use a gun, shoot and kill one of our dear citizens," he added.

The situation in the province was entirely unintended for various reasons, said Rouhani, noting that water shortage is due to the unprecedented drought in the country and the accumulation of remaining problems from previous years."

The President instructed the governor-general of Khuzestan to use all necessary potentials in the province as well as neighboring provinces and solve the problems quickly with the coordination and cooperation of all authorities."

The secretary-general of the supreme national security council Admiral Ali Shamkhani tweeted on Thursday that "the security forces had been ordered to immediately release those detained during the recent incidents in Khuzestan who had not have committed a criminal act."

On Wednesday evening, Khamenei's account published a picture of an Arab farmer, with a caption dating back to previous years, calling on Iranian officials to "solve problems of Khuzestan."

In Washington, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States was closely following the protests, including reports that security forces had fired bullets at protesters.

"We support the rights of Iranians to peacefully assemble and to express themselves. Iranians ... should enjoy those rights without fear of violence, without fear of arbitrary detention by security forces," he told reporters.

Arab-majority cities along the Karun and Karkheh rivers witnessed several protests against the "systematic displacement policy." Protesters chanted slogans condemning the diversion of the water rivers into the Iranian territory.

The rallies spread to the eastern cities of the province as activists accused the security forces of suppressing the protests.

For his part, Ahwaz MP Mojtaba Yousefi criticized the "secret projects" to transfer water from the province to other regions. He condemned the construction of 25 steel factories in Iran's central desert, warning that it damages "the region's environment," ISNA quoted him as saying.

Several Iranian news agencies reported that the parliamentary security and foreign policy committee members would visit Ahwaz soon, without specifying a date.

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