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Khamenei Representative Apologizes After Plastic Bullets Fired At Iranian Protesters

Gheyzanieh district residents protest a lack of drinking water on May 23.

The representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in the southwestern province of Khuzestan has visited some of the people who were wounded by security forces during a protest over a lack of drinking water last week.

In a video published by the semiofficial Fars news agency on May 25, Seyed Abdolnabi Mousavifard is seen in the home of a young man who had one leg badly injured by plastic bullets during the rally two days earlier.

"I'm here to apologize to this young man," Mousavifard is seen saying in the video.

Photos of the man and his injured leg have been widely circulated on social media.

He was among residents of the Gheizaniyeh district who had gathered in front of the local governor's office on May 23 and blocked a road to protest against their drinking water being cut off.

Security forces fired tear gas and plastic bullets to disperse the crowd. Police claimed the protesters had attacked the police with stones and sticks.

It was unclear how many people were wounded in the violence.

President Hassan Rohani on May 25 instructed the energy minister and the governor of Khuzestan Province to take immediate measures to resolve the problem with drinking water in the district.

Khuzestan Governor Gholamreza Shariati also apologized to residents and promised to resolve their water issue within two weeks.

Water shortages are a chronic problem in Gheizanieh, a district with a population of more than 25,000 people, as well as in many other areas of the province.

Khuzestan, home to an ethnic Arab minority, holds around 80 percent of Iran's onshore oil reserves. It also has a wealth of rivers and water reservoirs but suffers from underdevelopment, a lack of drinking water, and poverty in many areas.

Khuzestan is currently one of the hot spots of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran, where the virus has officially infected more than 139,500 people and killed over 7,500 people.

Five days of protests shook Iranian cities and towns in November following a government announcement about a fuel-price hike.

At least 304 men, women, and children were killed during the "ruthless" crackdown on the protests by security forces, according to Amnesty International.

Thousands of others were "arbitrarily" detained and many were subjected to "enforced disappearance, torture, and other ill-treatment, and unfair trials," the London-based human rights watchdog said.

U.S. sanctions have targeted Iran’s oil industry and other sectors, depriving Tehran of much-needed cash.