Iran water protests face crackdown; Lebanon’s water supply could collapse in a month

Iran is using unlawful and excessive force in a crackdown against protests over water shortages in its oil-rich but arid southwestern Khuzestan province, international rights groups said on Friday.

Amnesty International said it had confirmed the deaths of at least eight protesters and bystanders, including a teenage boy, as the authorities resorted to live ammunition to quell the protests.

Iranian media and officials have said at least three people have been killed, including a police officer and a protestor, accusing “opportunists” and “rioters” of shooting at protesters and security forces.

“Iran’s security forces have deployed unlawful force, including by firing live ammunition and birdshot, to crush mostly peaceful protests,” Amnesty International said.

Analysis of video footage from the protests and eyewitness accounts “indicate security forces used deadly automatic weapons, shotguns with inherently indiscriminate ammunition, and tear gas,” it said.

Human Rights Watch meanwhile said in a separate statement that Iranian authorities appeared to have “used excessive force against demonstrators” and the government should “transparently investigate” the reported deaths.

“Iranian authorities have a very troubling record of responding with bullets to protesters frustrated with mounting economic difficulties and deteriorating living conditions,” said HRW’s Iran researcher Tara Sepehri Far.

Rights groups have accused Iran of launching a ferocious crackdown against 2019 nationwide protests over fuel price rises that, according to Amnesty, left at least 304 people dead.

“Iran’s authorities have a harrowing track record of using unlawful lethal force. The events unfolding in Khuzestan have chilling echoes of November 2019,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Amnesty said the teenage boy, Hadi Bahmani, was killed in the town of Izeh.

Iranian authorities have blamed the unrest on rioters and Amnesty noted that the Fars news agency published interviews with relatives of two of the men killed distancing themselves from their actions.

But Amnesty cited a source as saying that one of the families had been visited by plain clothes agents and “coerced them into reciting a pre-prepared script on camera”.

Human Rights Watch said there had also been reports of internet shutdowns in the area, noting that “over the past three years, authorities have frequently restricted access to information during protests.”

Khuzestan is Iran’s main oil-producing region, but has been struggling with an intense drought since March.

The province is home to a large Arab minority, and its people regularly complain of being marginalised by the authorities.

Lebanon water supply could collapse in a month: UN
Beirut (AFP) July 23, 2021 – The shortages and currency crunch in Lebanon could lead to a collapse of the mains water supply in Lebanon within a month, the UN’s Children Fund warned Friday.

“More than four million people, including one million refugees, are at immediate risk of losing access to safe water in Lebanon,” UNICEF said.

The UN agency said that maintenance costs incurred in US dollars, funding shortages and the parallel collapse of the power grid were rapidly destroying the water sector.

“UNICEF estimates that most water pumping will gradually cease across the country in the next four to six weeks,” it said.

“A loss of access to the public water supply could force households to make extremely difficult decisions regarding their basic water, sanitation and hygiene needs,” UNICEF Representative in Lebanon Yukie Mokuo said.

Lebanon’s meltdown, which started with a financial crisis caused by state corruption and mismanagement, is fast spreading to every aspect of daily life.

The Lebanese pound, which for years was pegged to the US dollar, has lost more than 90 percent of its value over the past 18 months.

Electricity in most places is barely available an hour a day while the fuel needed to power generators is also in short supply.

Basic medicines have been missing from pharmacy shelves for months and private hospitals warned on Thursday they were “hours away” from losing all power supply.

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