Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday that citizens have the right to protest after days of protests against water shortages in Khuzestan province in which three people were killed.
The southwest province is Iran’s main oil-producing region, but has struggled with an intense drought since March.
The people of Khuzestan “have the right to speak, express themselves, protest and even take to the streets within the framework of the regulations,” Rouhani said in a speech broadcast on state television.
At least three people were killed, including a policeman and a protester, according to Iranian media and officials, who accused “opportunists” and “rioters” of shooting at protesters and security forces.
“It is possible that a malicious person will take advantage of the situation, come in the middle of it all and use a gun, shoot and kill one of our dear citizens,” Rouhani said.
Overseas-based Farsi-language media released videos which they claimed were protests in several towns and villages, showing hundreds of people marching and chanting slogans against the authorities as they were surrounded by police riot control.
It was not possible to verify the authenticity of the videos.
“If there is a problem, I ask the people of Khuzestan to solve it legally,” Rouhani said.
Khuzestan is home to a large Arab minority and its inhabitants regularly complain of being marginalized. The province was a hotspot of anti-government protests that also rocked other parts of Iran in 2019.
Admiral Ali Shamkhani, secretary general of the Supreme National Security Council, said Thursday that “the security forces have been ordered to immediately release those detained during the recent incidents in Khuzestan who did not commit an act. criminal ”.
Summer heat waves and seasonal sandstorms from Saudi Arabia and neighboring Iraq have dried up the once fertile plains of Khuzestan in recent years.