Protests in the southern Iran city of Khorramshahr turned into an armed confrontation with security forces early Sunday, resulting in injuries among protesters and police, with conflicting reports that one or more demonstrators may have died. Screenshot from social media video taken in the city of Khorramshahr showing armed clashes with police. Iran's state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) confirmed the clashes in the historically restive Arab-majority city after large protests over clean water shortages in the region began Friday, and after 3 days of economic protests in Tehran resulted in the temporary closure of the Grand Bazaar early last week. Though the AP confirms that gunfire erupted in Khorrmashahr, it reports multiple injuries and no fatalities as "online videos appear to show Iranian security forces shooting at protesters." However Saudi-owned Al Arabiya reported four deaths among protesters on Saturday, and BBC Persian cited at least one death based on an eyewitness account. The Times of Israel echoed regional Arabic press and cited four deaths during the protests. Iranian state media and opposition media activists traded blame for a blaze which engulfed a museum in Khorramshahr over the weekend. https://twitter.com/BabakTaghvaee/...
# The unrest comes amidst an economic crisis sparked by President Trump's decision with withdraw the US from the Iran nuclear deal and heighten sanctions, with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani saying last week his country is in a "fight" with the US, blaming the attempt to collapse the JCPOA for "an economic war" fueling Iran's current crisis. “The US cannot defeat our nation, our enemies are not able to get us to their knees,” he said in response to the growing demonstrations.
Currently, a dollar is worth as much as 90,000 rials compared with 65,000 rials before President Trump announced he would pull out from the deal, and compared with 42,890 at the close of 2017. Thus the official government-set exchange rate of 42,000 rials to $1 has been quickly surpassed in the black market, which fueled mass protests in Tehran and reportedly in merchant districts of a few other cities last week.
The weekend protests in Khorramshahr in particular, which lies about 400 miles southwest of Tehran, came after residents complained of salty, muddy water issuing from their taps during a years long drought.
According to a recent report by a recent report by the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization, the last decade of drought in Iran has reached crisis levels: "Although Iran has a history of drought, over the last decade, Iran has experienced its most prolonged, extensive and severe drought in over 30 years," the report reads.
Elsewhere in the country hundreds of deaths have recently been reported based on water poisoning during sporadic outages and shortages, a situation which could get worse due to heightened US sanctions as in some instances the government has failed to properly chlorinate and purify city water supplies.
Meanwhile, events appear to be unfolding in similar fashion to the early phase of protests that gripped mostly provincial cities and towns across Iran in January. While the last week of protests appear isolated and primarily driven by local and regional factors, and fundamentally by the tanking economy, protest videos increasingly show people chanting "death to Khamenei" in reference to Iran's Supreme Leader.
And notably, the last week has witnessed mass power and internet outages across the country, as Newsweek reports: "Power outages have hit Tehran this week as protests rocked the Iranian capital due to economic woes, which have seen the country’s currency fall rapidly in recent months"...
“I can’t speak for the president, but it sure sounds like he doesn’t think there is much of a chance of a change in behavior unless there is a change in people and philosophy,” Giuliani told Reuters at the event in Villepinte, north of Paris.
“We are the strongest economy in the world and if we cut you off then you collapse,” he said while referencing the recent protests in Iran.
“Anybody who thinks the Ayatollahs are honest people is a fool. They are crooks and that’s what Europe is propping up murderers and sponsors of terrorism. Instead of taking an opportunity to topple them they are now left propping them up,” Giuliani said referencing is longtime stance supporting regime change in Tehran.
With the weekend protests in Khorramshahr devolving into a major armed clash with authorities, and with Iran regime change rhetoric among Western political leaders back in the spotlight, we could be witnessing the opening act of much more to come...