Iran downplays violence after police reportedly open fire on water protesters
Iran's interior minister on Sunday tried to downplay the violence during overnight water protests in the southwestern city of Khorramshahr when police reportedly opened fire on demonstrators.
Unverified footage on social media showed security forces firing on protesters, while state TV broadcast images of banks with broken windows, purportedly attacked by demonstrators in Khorramshahr, where there have been three days of protests.
"No one has been killed in the unrest, and just one person has been wounded in a shooting," said Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, quoted by the state news agency IRNA, denying reports that protesters were killed.
"Our effort is to bring these protests to an end as soon as possible with restraint from police and the cooperation of authorities, but if the opposite happens, the judiciary and law enforcement forces will carry out their duties," he said.
Police fired tear gas as protesters set fire to a bridge and a garden surrounding a museum that is a memorial to the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, state media said.
A number of protests have broken out in Iran since the beginning of the year over water, a growing political concern due to a drought which residents of parched areas and analysts say has been exacerbated by mismanagement.
Oil-rich southwestern Khuzestan province, where Khorramshahr is located, is the home of many members of Iran's ethnic Arab minority, who have long complained of alleged discrimination and tight control by security forces.
Speaking before the clashes, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday that the United States was acting together with Sunni Muslim Gulf Arab states that regard Shia Iran as their main regional foe in trying to destabilise the government in Tehran.
"If America was able to act against Iran, it would not need to form coalitions with notorious and reactionary states in the region and ask their help in fomenting unrest and instability," Khamenei told graduating Revolutionary Guards officers, in remarks carried by state TV.