Water shortages in the Iranian province of Khuzestan became a noticeable concern as summer temperatures increased, causing major protests in a number of cities and towns. On July 15, the first such protests were recorded, and these helped to create the message that would define the protests for the next two weeks and counting.
There have been reports of casualties in the first twelve days of protests at the hands of security forces, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has reportedly arrested at least one hundred people, and regular law enforcement may have swept up thousands during that same time, including known and suspected activists as well as direct participants in the unrest.
All of these arrests and executions, on the other hand, appear to have had the opposite effect, bringing more Iranians into the streets to express their support with the people of Khuzestan.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its President-elect, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, encouraged the solidarity marches from the second day of the protests onward.
The first of these statements urged “all youths” to rush to the help of activists in Khuzestan, “especially those who have been wounded.”
Early reports of casualties from the regime’s repression reflect the protest movement’s youthful demography. The People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI / MEK Iran) announced the names of twelve known victims of the crackdown on Sunday between the age of 17 and 30, along with their addresses and the places where they were massacred.
17 years-old Hadi Bahmani, one of the teen victims, was given a funeral on Friday, three days after his murder, and supporters took advantage of the opportunity to hold another protest, this time focusing on the regime’s political brutality and general contempt for the welfare of the Iranian people.
Both protests have seen their chants shift from addressing specific grievances to calling for the overthrow of the regime that is to blame.
The familiar slogan “Neither Gaza nor Lebanon; I give my life only for Iran” has been used by protesters in the past two weeks to condemn this engagement. This has been a recurring chant in recent protests, including nationwide demonstrations in January 2018 and November 2019.
Both uprisings paved the way for explicit calls for regime change, which have been repeated in the aftermath of the Khuzestan droughts.
Despite the fact that internet blackouts make it difficult to both report and coordinate such demonstrations, they have occurred in Tabriz, Saqqez, Zanjan, Mahashahr, Lorestan, Bushehr, and Isfahan since July 15.
The NCRI staged the Free Iran World Summit just days before the water-shortage protests began, with repeated speeches from Mrs. Rajavi and hundreds of political allies from the United States, the European Union, and elsewhere.
Mrs. Rajavi forecasted in one of her speeches that the “new era” following Ebrahim Raisi’s inauguration on August 5 would be marked by a historic increase in the conflict between the Iranian regime and civil society.
Protests in and around Khuzestan are possibly a precursor of this phenomenon, expressing people’s belief that Raisi will fail to handle water shortages and other well-known crises.
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