Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei publicly commented for the first time over the ongoing crisis that occurred in the southwestern province of Khuzestan over water shortages. In his speech, Khamenei defined people’s complaints as legitimate.
Blaming officials for their carelessness about the situation in the oil-rich province bordering Iraq, the Supreme Leader stated that the people’s grievances should have been taken into consideration much before in order to avoid the situation getting worse.
Khamenei also stressed that seeing people in a province, which is full of natural resources, amid a situation with severe water scarcity, especially at times in the broiling summer hot, is agonizing.
The Supreme Leader’s remarks came after he received the second dose of the domestically-developed COVIran Barakat vaccine. Saying that the people of Khuzestan are not culpable for voicing their complaints, Khamenei called the officials to meet people’s demands.
Apart from Khamenei, several other high-ranking Iranian officials have voiced their concern over the heating situation in Khuzestan. President Hassan Rouhani held a phone call with the provincial governor, termed protests as “the right of people,” and stated that the government is “listening to their legitimate grievances.”
On the other hand, one of the senior conservative figures and former presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei blamed the successive governments for the situation in the province, saying “no province faces as many unsolved problems and issues as Khuzestan does.”
In demonstrations that have entered their second week, protesters requested that water stored in many dams over rivers be released to provide them with enough water to irrigate their farms. Similar protests hit Khuzestan in July 2018, as well.
During the protests, it was reported that at least three people, including one policeman, were killed. While activists blame security forces for those killings, government officials made statements keeping protesters responsible for the violence.