| 17 April 2024, Wednesday |

Iran condemns U.N. criticism of deaths during protests in Khuzestan

The United Nations’ human rights chief’s criticism of the shooting deaths of demonstrators during demonstrations over water shortages was denounced by Iran on Saturday as meddling in its domestic affairs.

Meanwhile, according to videos uploaded on social media, marches in favor of the protesters in the southwestern province of Khuzestan moved to the northwest of the country on Saturday.

Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed alarm on Friday over recent deaths and injuries in oil-rich Khuzestan, as well as extensive detentions.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a statement carried by Iranian media that Bachelet’s “interventionist” and “non-expert and biased comments on the management of the country’s water resources were not within the scope of commissioner’s responsibilities”.

In addition to the drought, Khatibzadeh said U.S. sanctions had “prevented the transfer of technology to and investment in Khuzestan’s water sector”.

Iranians have taken to the streets for more than a week to vent their anger about the shortages which have come during the country’s worst drought in half a century and as the economy creaks under U.S. sanctions and COVID-19.

Social media videos on Saturday showed groups of demonstrators chanting slogans in the northwestern city of Tabriz in support of the Khuzestan protesters. Reuters could not verify the footage.

Late on Thursday, one youth was shot dead and seven were injured during solidarity demonstrations in the Lorestan province that neighbors Khuzestan, a police official said, blaming “counter-revolutionaries” for the violence.

Videos on social media on Friday showed marchers in the city of Aligudarz chanting slogans against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

At least one policeman and three young men had been shot dead in earlier protests, according to Iranian officials who blamed “rioters” for the deaths.

However, Amnesty International said at least eight people had been killed during the unrest.

The Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) said on Saturday that it had been able to identify 10 killed and 102 detained.

Witnesses spoke of continued heavy security presence in Khuzestan on Saturday.

“Mobile internet is still down, and security officers are everywhere,” a resident of Ahvaz, who did not want to be identified, told Reuters.

On Friday, Khamenei urged officials to address the situation, adding that protests over water shortages could not be blamed on the people.

President Hassan Rouhani echoed Khamenei’s sentiments on Saturday, saying, “With the exception of a few, people are using their legitimate right to demonstrate.”