In recent weeks cities across Khuzestan have witnessed near-nightly protests over the province’s deadly water crisis. Participants have called for better governance, accountability and a stop to damaging projects diverting water from the major rivers of Karun and Dez to other parts of Iran. During this time, hundreds have also been arrested, with many taken away to unknown locations.
On Sunday, August 1, a source close to proceedings told IranWire that local detention centers have been filled to capacity. In light of this, a number of detainees in the cities of Abadan, Khorramshahr and Shadegan have been transferred instead to Imam Hossein field hospital in Darkhovin, on the road between the provincial capital of Ahvaz and the port of Khorramshahr. About 70 more have been sent to the Shahid Bakeri military base.
The exact number of people arrested since mid-July is still unknown. Iran’s judicial and security institutions have so far remained tight-lipped on the matter – and when asked by reporters for figures, officials have simply replied that they “have no information”.
In an interview with the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) on July 28, Ghasem Saedi, an MP for Dasht-e Azadegan and Hoveyzeh in Khuzestan, said that he, too, was in the dark. On the matter of those killed during confrontations with security forces, he added: “These young people were shot and killed by unknown assailants.
“Khuzestan [Municipality] and national security councils have plans to compensate the families for their losses. Members of these councils are also saddened that these people have been killed.”
On July 27, Sadegh Moradi, the head of Khuzestan Justice Department, claimed that “a considerable number” of people had been released already. More, he said, would follow after “due legal process”.
As of now, local sources have identified 13 people killed by direct fire from security forces during the protests, and at least 120 of the detainees. At least 350 people are thought to have been arrested by the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Agency alone. Many of them were children and teenagers.
Promises from Islamic Republic officials about the impending release of detainees coincided with fresh protests in Ahvaz. On the afternoon of Friday, July 30, a number of people gathered on the banks of the Karun River in Ahvaz to protest the diversion of water from Khuzestan to Iran’s central plateau. At least six people, two of them women, were arrested.
Solidarity Protests Continue Elsewhere in Iran
People also staged protests in the holy city of Mashhad, northeast Iran, on Friday night. Participants called on all Iranians to join the anti-government demonstrations, also using the gathering to reiterate a demand for the release of political prisoners.
Last week security forces arrested a number of political and civil rights activists in Mashhad, including Fatemeh Sepehri and Javad Laal Mohammadi. Both are signatories of the 2019 “Statement of 14”, an open letter signed by 14 prominent activists calling for the resignation of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Javad Laal Mohammadi is also a member of the National Teachers Association.
The demonstrations in Mashhad were originally due to take place in Mellat Park. But after security forces intervened and arrested several would-be participants, the protest was moved to another park.
Last week two protests also took place in central Tehran. Both ended in violence after security forces attacked the peaceful marches. Narges Mohammadi and five other activists were also arrested for rallying outside the Interior Ministry in support of the people of Khuzestan the week before. Protesters also squared up to security forces last week in Isfahan and Alborz, while at least 20 people were jailed for blocking a road in Kermanshah.