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Iran's Oil-Rich Khuzestan Hit By Fifth Night Of Protests Over Water Shortage

Protesters have gathered in Susangerd in recent days.

Protests in Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan Province continued for a fifth-straight night over a severe water shortage.

Video posted on social media on July 19 showed protesters chanting and blocking roads as security forces try to disperse crowds with tear gas. In some videos, what appears to be the sound of gunfire can be heard.

Protests have been held in a number of cities across the southwestern province, including in Ahvaz, Ramhormoz, and Susangerd.

At least two people have been killed since the protests began on July 15. Unconfirmed reports put the death toll at four.

Human rights groups say the protesters were killed by security forces, but the local government blames “rioters” for the deaths.

Iran's government has long blamed protesters for deaths during unrest, despite its history of bloody crackdowns.

Iran is facing its worst drought in at least 50 years, a natural event exacerbated by poor water management.

The drought has hit agriculture and left dams with little water supply.

Parts of the country have experienced weeks of blackouts.

Khuzestan is home to an ethnic Arab minority that complains of discrimination and lack of services in the impoverished region near the border with Iraq.

Arab separatists have long operated in Khuzestan, carrying out attacks and sabotage on infrastructure.

The protests come as Iran struggles through another wave of the coronavirus pandemic and the economy suffers under U.S. sanctions. Thousands of workers in its oil industry have launched strikes for better wages and conditions.

With reporting by Reuters