Dubai, United Arab Emirates (AFP) – Dozens of Iranians marched down a main street in Tehran on Monday, online videos showed, amid ongoing protests over water shortages in southwestern Iran.
Demonstrators are seen in the videos walking down Islamic Republic Street – or “Islamic Republic Street” in Farsi – calling on the police to support them. Men on motorbikes and motorists behind them honk their horns in time with their shouts.
The demonstrators later dispersed peacefully. Security forces have maintained a larger than usual presence in the Iranian capital recently.
The semi-official Fars news agency later reported on the demonstrations, but blamed them for a power outage at a nearby shopping center on a street known for its electronic stores. Fars Agency posted a video online showing the policemen on motorbikes and on foot, and at one point talking to the crowd.
While the protests were peaceful, many protesters shouted: “Death to the dictator!”
The phrase could lead to the arrest and trial of the protester in the Islamic Republic, where Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei oversees civilian government.
At least four people have been killed amid days of protests over water shortages affecting Iran’s Khuzestan province, an oil-rich and volatile region of the country. Activists say the death toll is higher.
Iran has been facing power outages for weeks, in part due to what authorities describe as a severe drought. Rainfall has decreased by nearly 50% in the past year, which has dwindled the water supplies at the dams.
The protests in Khuzestan come as Iran struggles with repeated increases in infections in the coronavirus pandemic and with thousands of oil industry workers going on strike for better wages and conditions.
The Iranian economy has also been suffering from US sanctions since President Donald Trump’s decision in 2018 to unilaterally withdraw America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers, smashing the value of the Islamic Republic’s currency, the rial.