Socialist Worker

Wave of protests over water shortages in Iran

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2765

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani is facing anger

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani is facing anger (Pic: Asia Society on Flickr )


People in south west Iran have protested and fought with police for seven days in a row over a water shortage crisis.

The protests are the product of an incendiary mix of US-imposed economic sanctions, climate change, and Iranian state corruption.

Iranian police have killed at least three people in the Khuzestan province, where there have been nightly protests for seven days in a row.

The crisis has left ordinary people with a shortage of drinking water and damaged farmers’ crops.

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has already apologised for a related energy crisis, which has caused power cuts and blackouts. He said a drought affecting Iran had both halted production in hydroelectric power stations, and increased demand for electricity.

The blackouts also caused people across Iran to protest late last month and earlier this month, including in the capital city Tehran.

The Iranian government says rainfall had fallen by 52 percent from last year. But many ordinary people protesting also accuse the government of “mismanagement” and neglect.

Iran has faced years of punishing sanctions imposed by the US, which have fuelled economic crises and made ordinary people suffer. They’re part of a decades-long attempt by the US to isolate Iran, which is a challenge to its control of the Middle East.

At the same time, Iran’s rulers have tried to “open up” parts of the country’s economy to the market, with industries and business run by state-linked private companies.

Shortage 

Protesters blame the shortage on the construction of more than 100 dams by companies owned by or linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp. The Revolutionary Guards is a powerful military and political arm of the state.

Even parts of the Iranian government say many of the dams are unnecessary, drying up rivers, diverting them, or allowing water to evaporate.

Protesters in Khuzestan point out that the province has several large rivers—and demand to know where the water has been diverted to.

The protests come after a wave of strikes by oil workers in the same province.

Strike wave spreads across Iran’s oil fields
Strike wave spreads across Iran’s oil fields
  Read More

Khuzestan is a centre of the petrochemicals industry central to Iran’s economy. Much of the fuel produced there is sold on outside Iran. Meanwhile its workers suffer low pay and poor conditions.

The protests are also the latest in a series of demonstrations, strikes and riots over poverty and corruption in Iran over the last few years.

As with all of the protests, the US—which backs dictators across the Middle East—pretends to support them for its own advantage. It often tries to present any protest as opposition to the regime and support for the West.

US state department spokesperson Ned Price said the US “supports the rights of Iranians to peacefully assemble and to express themselves.”

But protests and strikes don’t show support for the US, which many ordinary Iranians know has spent decades punishing them.

Instead they are resistance to a system that oppresses and exploits workers.


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