Videos show march in Iranian capital amid water protests

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Dozens of Iranians marched down a major street in Tehran on Monday, online videos show, amid ongoing protests over water shortages in southwestern Iran.

The demonstrators are seen in the videos marching down Jomhuri Islami Avenue — or “Islamic Republic Avenue” in Farsi — and calling on police to support them. Men on motorbikes and those in cars behind them honk their horns in time with their shouts.

The demonstrators later dispersed peacefully. Security forces have maintained a heavier-than-normal presence recently in the Iranian capital.

The semiofficial Fars news agency later reported the demonstrations, but blamed them on a power outage at a nearby shopping center on the avenue known for its electronic shops. Fars published a video online that shows police on motorcycles and on foot, at one point talking to the crowd.

While the protests were peaceful, several demonstrators shouted: “Death to the Dictator!”

That phrase can lead to the demonstrator being arrested and prosecuted in the Islamic Republic, where the civilian government is overseen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

At least four people have been killed amid days of protests over the water shortage affecting Iran’s Khuzestan province, an oil-rich, restive area of the country. Activists say the death toll is higher.

Iran has faced rolling blackouts for weeks now, in part over what authorities describe as a severe drought. Precipitation had decreased by almost 50% in the last year, leaving dams with dwindling water supplies.

The protests in Khuzestan come as Iran struggles through repeated surges of infections in the coronavirus pandemic and as thousands of workers in its oil industry have launched strikes for better wages and conditions.

Iran’s economy also has struggled under U.S. sanctions since then-President Donald Trump’s 2018 decision to unilaterally withdraw America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers, crashing the value of the Islamic Republic’s currency, the rial.

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