Protests sparked by a water crisis in Iran spread to the capital Tehran on Monday, videos shared online showed, with demonstrators chanting slogans against the country’s theocratic rulers.
“The clerics must get lost,” chanted protesters in one video, referring to Iran’s clerical rulers.
Another video showed protesters chanting “death to the dictator,” a chant used regularly in anti-government demonstrations in Iran against the country’s highest authority, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
The protesters also expressed their disapproval of Iran’s foreign policies, chanting in one video “neither Gaza nor Lebanon, I sacrifice my life for Iran” in reference to Tehran’s support for Palestinian group Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Protests sparked by a water crisis have been taking place in Iran since July 15.
The protests were initially concentrated in Arab majority areas in the oil-rich southwestern Khuzestan province, which is home to ethnic Arabs who have long complained of discrimination in Iran. But the demonstrations have since spread to more cities in Khuzestan, as well as to other parts of the country.
On Saturday, protesters took the streets in Tabriz, the provincial capital of the northwestern East Azerbaijan province, to express support for protesters in Khuzestan, according to activists and footage circulating on social media.
Protests in solidarity with Khuzestan had also broken out late on Thursday in the neighboring western province of Lorestan. Demonstrators in Lorestan’s city of Aligudarz chanted slogans against Khamenei, a video shared on social media showed.
Iran has so far confirmed the death of five people, including a police officer, in violence connected to the protests. Iranian officials have blamed unknown “rioters” for the deaths.
Activists reject the official narrative and maintain the deaths were caused by security forces opening fire on protesters. Iranian officials, who typically use the term “rioters” to refer to protesters, have blamed them for the deaths in the past.
HRANA said on Saturday that it had been able to identify 10 killed and 102 detained in connection with the protests in Khuzestan.
Amnesty International said on Friday security forces had killed at least eight protesters and bystanders in Khuzestan since protests erupted in the province on July 15.
In his first comments on the protests, Khamenei said on Friday protesters cannot be blamed and called on officials to deal with the water shortages.
The water crisis has devastated agriculture and livestock farming which are the source of livelihood for many in Khuzestan, particularly in its Arab majority regions.
Authorities have blamed the water shortages on a severe drought, but protesters in Khuzestan say government corruption and mismanagement, as well as “discriminatory” policies aimed at changing the region’s demography, are to blame.
The rallies come as thousands of workers in Iran’s key energy sector have launched strikes for better wages and working conditions.
Iran’s economy has been hit hard since 2018 when former US President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers and reimposed sweeping sanctions on the country. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the country’s economic problems.