A crowd of Iranian demonstrators in central Tehran chanted “Death to the dictator,” demanding the resignation of the regime’s top official, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, in wake of the water protests in Ahwaz.
Video clips showed hundreds of people on the Jomhouri and Valiasr streets, the capital’s most important commercial streets, chanting slogans calling for the religious clerics to leave the regime.
Protesters shouted: “Neither Gaza nor Lebanon… My soul is dedicated to Iran,” expressing resentment of their country’s regional role and the regime’s spending on the Lebanese Hezbollah party and the Hamas movement in Gaza.
The authorities soon acknowledged the protests. Hamid Goudarzi, the security affairs assistant to the governor of Tehran, told reporters that the reason for the protests was due to power outages in two malls.
AFP released a video published by the Iranian Fars agency, through its account on Twitter, of a gathering of about 50 people, some of whom were shouting “political slogans.”
The chants reflect the latest waves of public discontent that have been seen over the last month in several areas of the capital, when Iranians climbed the roofs of homes to denounce power cuts, before taking to the streets of Tehran on Monday.
Meanwhile, videos circulated on social media, showed dozens of people in Isfahan city calling for the right to divert water for the Zayandeh River, which passes through the city center. The river is drying up after dams rerouted the flow of the water to the Yazd and Kerman provinces.
The protests took place even after security forces continue to impose strict security measures following demonstrations that erupted earlier this month against the policy of draining rivers and diverting their course.
Security forces continue to arrest protesters in several cities and towns. The fate of the majority of the detainees remains unknown. Activists said that the authorities arrested at least 20 people in Al-Ain neighborhood in the city of Ahwaz.
Police forces used excessive force to disperse the demonstrators, by firing live and rubber bullets, cartridges and tear gas. Local reports indicate that hundreds of people were injured during the protests, most of whom are receiving treatment at home for fear of arrest.
On Sunday, President Hassan Rouhani said the “hand of the enemies is behind the events in Khuzestan,” a day after the government promised a limited opening of the dams.
The authorities attributed the cause of the drought to a decrease in rain and a decline in dam reserves, but Ahwazi environmental experts and representatives of the province in the Iranian parliament pointed to the “Beheshtabad” project carried out by the Khatam al-Anbiya group, which is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard Corps, with the cooperation of the Ministry of Energy.
The project aims to transfer Ahwaz waters to the Iranian plateau, where most of areas suffer from drought.
The protests began in the cities located at the slope of the Karkheh River, before moving to the vicinity of the Karun River. Protesters chanted slogans denouncing the “policy of displacement”, calling for the suspension of water transfer projects.