US condemns Iran's crackdown on protesters

State Department spokesperson: The Iranian people have a right to voice their frustrations and hold their government accountable.

Elad Benari ,

Iran
Iran
Reuters

The United States on Wednesday condemned the Iranian regime’s crackdown on protesters demonstrating following the water shortage in the country.

Khuzestan, Iran's main oil-producing region and the wealthiest of the country's 31 provinces, has been gripped by drought since March, with protests erupting in several towns and cities since July 15.

Footage from the protests has shown Iranian police opening fire at the demonstrators.

“Protests in Iran that began with a water shortage — owing to drought and governmental mismanagement and neglect — in the Khuzestan province have now spread across various cities including Tehran, Karaj and Tabriz. The Iranian people are now putting a spotlight not only on their unmet needs, but also their unfulfilled aspirations for respect for human rights — rights to which individuals the world over are entitled,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price in a statement.

“The Iranian people have a right to voice their frustrations and hold their government accountable, but we have seen disturbing reports that security forces fired on protesters, resulting in multiple deaths. We condemn the use of violence against peaceful protestors. We support the rights of Iranians to peacefully assemble and express themselves, without fear of violence and detention by security forces. We are also monitoring reports of internet slowdowns in the region,” he added.

“We urge the Iranian government to allow its citizens to exercise their right to freedom of expression and to freely access information, including via the Internet.”

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last week acknowledged the seriousness of the water problem and said residents of Khuzestan were not to blame for expressing their discontent, but also warned them not to give ammunition to the "enemy".

"The enemy will try to use any tool against the revolution, the nation and the people's interests, so we must be careful not to give him any pretext," Khamenei said.

Iran is notorious for its crackdowns on protesters. Massive protests erupted across Iran in November 2019 after a major petrol price hike, but they were put down by security forces with mass arrests amid a near-total internet blackout.

Amnesty International reported at the time that at least 300 people were killed in that unrest, many shot dead by security forces.

Eyewitness accounts and videos said security forces responded to the November protests by opening fire on unarmed protesters, largely unemployed or low-income young men between the ages of 19 and 26.

Iran blamed the violence that broke out during the protests on "thugs" backed by its foes the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia.



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