Iran denies killing demonstrators at water protests
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Iran denies killing demonstrators at water protests

If unrest in Khorramshahr doesn't end, 'law enforcement forces will carry out their duties,' warns Tehran's interior minister, after reports that security forces killed 4 people

A still from video shared on social media showing protests in the Iranian city of Khorramshahr, on June 30, 2018. (screen capture: Twitter/BBC)
A still from video shared on social media showing protests in the Iranian city of Khorramshahr, on June 30, 2018. (screen capture: Twitter/BBC)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli on Sunday denied reports that as many as four people were killed in clashes a day earlier, with security forces in the southwestern Iranian city of Khorramshahr, during a demonstration against water pollution.

In a Sunday press conference, Fazli said that just one person was injured in a “confrontation involving shots.”

He denied the reports, carried by Saudi media, that Iranian security forces had shot and killed protesters.

“The statements saying numerous people were killed are false,” he said.

“Our effort is to bring these protests to an end as soon as possible, with restraint from police and the cooperation of authorities, but if the opposite happens, the judiciary and law enforcement forces will carry out their duties,” Fazli added, according to Reuters.

Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli speaks during a press conference in Tehran, Iran, April 13, 2015. (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

The protesters set fire to dumpsters and damaged public property, prompting police to fire tear gas to disperse them, state-run IRNA news agency said Sunday.

Officials gave different accounts of those injured during the protest, with Deputy Interior Minister Hossein Zolfaghari saying 11 people were hurt when someone — it was not clear who — opened fire.

“Ten [of the wounded] were members of the security forces” and one was a civilian who was hospitalized, Zolfaghari was quoted by IRNA as saying.

The unrest erupted after some 500 people, mostly youth, gathered at a main square in the city to protest against pollution that is seeping into the city’s drinking water network, IRNA reported.

Protesters also gathered outside a mosque, the agency added.

According to IRNA, there have been several protests against water pollution in Khorramshahr and the neighboring city of Abadan over the past three days.

Iran has been facing mounting economic woes since the United States in May pulled out of a 2015 accord between Tehran and world powers that had lifted international sanctions in exchange for curbs on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

Iran’s currency has plunged almost 50 percent in value in the past six months against the US dollar, and inflation is on the rise.

Traders in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar held a rare strike on Monday, against the collapse of the rial.

Brief scuffles also broke out on Monday between protesters and police in the capital.

On Sunday, Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri said in statements broadcast on state television that Iran is suffering from several problems, not just US sanctions.

Among Iran’s “woes,” he cited its dependence on oil revenues along with a weak private sector and a fragile banking sector.

Industry Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari told a news conference in Tehran on Saturday that the situation was not “critical” but “special.”

He urged foreign firms working in Iran to resist US “threats” of sanctions and to continue doing business in the country.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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