Photographs of eight purported victims amid water protests in southwest Iran, July 2021


Iran has been angered by UN criticism of its response to protests over water shortages in the southwest of the country.

The UN’s head of human rights, Michelle Bachelet, said on Friday that “shooting and arresting people will simply add to the anger and desperation” over the “catastrophic” situation.

I am extremely concerned about the deaths and injuries that have occurred over the past week, as well as the widespread arrests and detention.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh responded Saturday that Bachelet’s comments were “false accusations and incorrect information”. He claimed the Government is pursuing “great efforts” to “relieve the suffering of the population”.

President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday that “certain problems in Khuzestan province must still be quickly resolved”, repeating that people have “the right to protest”.

The Revolutionary Guards proclaimed that they will take control of the situation, with commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami visiting Khuzestan Province.


Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch each conclude that Iran’s security personnel are using unlawful and excessive force against protests over water shortages.

Backing claims by activists, Amnesty said it has confirmed the deaths of at least eight protesters and bystanders, including a teenage boy, with security forces using live ammunition and birdshot “to crush mostly peaceful protests”.

The organization, drawing on video footage and witnesses, says “deadly automatic weapons, shotguns with inherently indiscriminate ammunition, and tear gas” have been employed.

Amnesty posted the names and photographs of the eight people slain.

The organization’s Diana Eltahawy said:

We have called time and time again for an end to the systematic impunity that continues to perpetuate cycles of bloodshed, as seen in the brutal crackdown on protests in Khuzestan. The UN Human Rights Council must urgently establish a mechanism to collect and analyse evidence of the most serious crimes under international law to facilitate fair and independent criminal proceedings

Human Rights Watch issued a statement with similar conclusions, calling on the Iranian Government to “transparently investigate” the deaths: “Iranian authorities have a very troubling record of responding with bullets to protesters frustrated with mounting economic difficulties and deteriorating living conditions.”

Iranian officials have acknowledged only five fatalities — four civilians and a police officer — and claimed that all were killed by “rioters”.

See also President Rouhani — Iranians “Have Right” to Protest Lack of Water

The Supreme Leader finally said on Friday that the protests are justified: “People showed their discontent, but we cannot have any complaint since the issue of water in the hot climate of Khuzestan is not a minor issue.”

He called on Iranian authorities to deal with long-standing issues over water and sewage, “If these recommendations had received sufficient attention, we would surely not have these problems now.”

The protests began on July 15 over long-standing issues with water supply, exacerbated by drought and dams affecting provision through southwest Iran.