Special security taskforces deployed to quash the water shortage protests raging in Iran’s southwestern Ahwaz province include one of Tehran’s “deadliest” units, well-informed sources revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat.
Their deployment comes at a time when demonstrators are clashing with riot police in different Iranian cities and the unrest shifting to the country’s northeast.
The uprising had erupted in Arab cities in Ahwaz 10 days ago in wake of popular outrage that hit the region over the drying up of the Karkheh River that had triggered a severe environmental disaster in regional marshes near borders with Iraq. The crisis later spilled over to affect all cities and villages located near the river.
To date, authorities blame what is happening on rising summer temperatures coupled with low rain levels, but lawmakers from Ahwaz are pointing fingers at the river rerouting project called “Beheshtabad.”
The project aims to control and redirect the flow of water in fertile Ahwaz plains to nearby Iranian highlands, especially to the city of Isfahan, where it would be used to cool down steel plants in the sensitive province.
Video clips were circulated late Saturday of tensions spiking in neighborhoods of the provincial city, also called Ahwaz, and the port city of Bandar Mahshahr.
Activists in large and small cities in Ahwaz reported that streets were witnessing intensifying confrontations between demonstrators and authorities after the forceful deployment of special forces from the Iranian police.
The semi-official Fars News Agency reported that gunmen riding a motorcycle opened fire on a police car in the city of Al-Falaiya (Shadegan), wounding four policemen.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Friday expressed concern about deaths and injuries and widespread detentions over the past week in Ahwaz.