Officials and the victim’s father blame riot police for the death in the city of Shadegan, Khuzestan province.
A young man was shot dead during a second night of protests over water scarcity in southwestern Iran, state news agency IRNA reported.
Iran is facing the worst drought in 50 years, with protests in several cities and towns in Khuzestan province over the water crisis, which has affected homes, devastated agriculture and livestock, and has caused power outages.
The deadly incident occurred Friday in the town of Shadegan in Khuzestan, Omid Sabripour, the county governor in office, told IRNA on Saturday, blaming the deaths of “opportunists and rioters.”
“During the rally, riot police fired into the air to provoke people, but unfortunately one of the bullets hit a person present at the scene and killed him,” he said.
In separate comments to the ISNA news agency, Sabripour said the shooting was aimed at both protesters and security forces.
He added that the victim was a “30-year-old passer-by” and that those responsible were identified.
The victim’s father
Iranian media aired a video of the victim’s father, Mostafa Naimawi, who said his son was shot by riot police and not by government security forces.
“My son was not in trouble and had nothing to do with riots and riots,” the father, who was not identified by his name, said in Arabic in the video that provided a translation into Farsi.
Videos posted on social media have shown protesters setting fire to tires to block roads and security forces trying to disperse crowds while being shot.
During some of the protests, people unleashed their anger with Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei, singing “Death to the Dictator” and “Death to Khamenei.”
Some were arrested Friday night, with a manhunt launched for others.
Earlier this month, President Hassan Rouhani said the drought was “unprecedented,” with an average rainfall of 52% compared to the previous year.
Khuzestan MP Abdollah Izadpanah warned on Friday that “Khuzestan insecurity means a lack of security for the whole country.”
He blamed water scarcity on “mistakes and unjustified decisions,” such as extracting water from Khuzestan rivers in other provinces, ISNA reported.
The government, the judiciary and President-elect Ebrahim Raisi have said they are addressing the issue of water scarcity and the government sent a delegation to the province on Friday to alleviate the situation.
This month began continued blackouts in the capital, Tehran, and several other major cities, which officials blamed for the effects of the drought on hydroelectric power generation, as well as growing demand.
Power outages during the peak summer months are not uncommon in Iran, but the continuing drought has intensified the situation.
Khuzestan is home to a large Sunni Arab minority, which has often complained of marginalization in Shiite Iran, mainly.
In 2019, the province was a hot spot of anti-government protests that had shaken other areas of the Islamic republic.
Over the years, strong summer heat waves and seasonal sandstorms starting from Saudi Arabia and neighboring Iraq have dried up the previously fertile plains of Khuzestan.
Scientists say climate change amplifies droughts and their intensity and frequency, in turn, threaten food security.
The country is also treating a fifth wave of COVID infections after the Delta variant began to spread across the southern provinces and is now dominant across the country.