Protests are continuing in Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan Province, after last weekend’s clashes with security forces in which at least 11 people were injured.

Crowds on the streets are complaining about “undrinkable” water with high levels of salt.

On Saturday night, security forces opened fire. The Government denied claims that one man was killed.

There were also reports of clashes in nearby Abadan, the site of Iran’s largest oil refinery, with Iran State media admitting that people chanted “critical slogans”: “The police attempted to disperse demonstrators in Abadan, but they fought back by throwing pieces of rocks and wood at the police.”

See also VideoCast: US Oil Sanctions and Iran’s Response — Al Jazeera’s Inside Story

Yesterday protests were also claimed in the provincial capital Ahvaz, although video of the gatherings could not be verified.

Iranian officials have been insisting the water in the province has now been desalinated and is fit for consumption.
But, defying their promise that fresh water will be available this week, MP Ali Sari said there are serious water shortages.

There have been a series of protests across Iran this year over the combination of drought, mismanagement, environmental damage, and economic conditions. Farmers in Isfahan have been protesting water distribution project in Isfahan for months, and there have been demonstrations at Friday Prayers in cities such as Kazeroun.

Rouhani Looks to Switzerland for Salvation

Pressured by both the Trump Administration and Iranian hardliners, President Hassan Rouhani is seeking an economic lifeline through a visit to Switzerland and Austria.

Rouhani met Swiss counterpart Alain Berset in Bern on Monday. A statement put out the standard summary of exploring “ways to strengthen bilateral Tehran-Bern relations in various fields” and promoting “dialogue between the two countries over important regional and global issues”.

Iranian State media emphasized Berset’s support for the July 2015 nuclear deal, from which the Trump Administration withdrew on May 9, ordering expanded US sanctions including punishment of foreign companies maintaining trade and investment with the Islamic Republic.

But Rouhani’s trip was in marked contrast to his attempt, after the American withdrawal, to pursue links with the European Union and its members not only for political support but for the links necessary for Iran’s fragile economy.

Switzerland is not an EU member and Austria has limited influence in comparison with France, Germany, and the UK — all of whom are part of the nuclear agreement.

Rouhani’s wooing of the Europeans has been hindered both by the EU’s difficulties in protecting companies from American punishment, and by the distrust of the Supreme Leader and hardliners who have demanded European “guarantees”.