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‘Political’ chants at Tehran power cut protest — state TV

By AFP - Jul 26,2021 - Last updated at Jul 26,2021

TEHRAN — Dozens demonstrated on Monday at a rally in the Iranian capital Tehran against power cuts amid a drought, the state television website reported, with some people chanting “political” slogans.

The demonstration follows protests over water shortages that began more than 10 days ago in the southwest, where at least four people have been reported killed, according to Iranian media.

In central Tehran, a “limited gathering” began before noon when some shop owners at the Aladdin and Charsou malls, two of the main mobile and tech markets, marched down Jomhouri Street to “protest problems caused by power cuts”, state TV reported.

“At the same time, a group tried to use the dissatisfaction and make it political” by chanting “norm-breaking slogans”, it added.

The term “norm-breaking” is regularly used by Iranian media to refer to slogans critical of the authorities in the Islamic republic.

A video posted on Twitter by the ultraconservative Fars news agency showed protesters blocking the busy street, with security forces on motorcycles present nearby.

Fars said the gathering comprised “about 50 people”, some of whom chanted “political slogans”.

These included “Neither Gaza nor Lebanon, my life for Iran” and “Police, support us”, the video showed.

Iran does not recognise Israel, and support for the Palestinian cause and groups such as Lebanon’s Hizbollah has been a pillar of its foreign policy since soon after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

A power company spokesman told Fars that Aladdin mall had been notified ahead of a two-hour power cut over “excessive usage”.

At about 4pm (11:30 GMT) on Monday, there was a police presence around Aladdin, but traffic volumes appeared normal and power there had been restored, an AFP journalist said.


Blackouts, drought


Rolling blackouts began in Tehran and other large cities this month, with officials blaming them on the impact of drought on hydroelectric power generation, as well as surging demand.

Cuts in the capital have reduced in frequency since the first week of July when unannounced blackouts lasted for hours, but the energy ministry still notifies people ahead of planned cuts because of an overburdened grid.

There have also been protests because over water.

The south-western province of Khuzestan has been gripped by drought since March, with protests about water shortages erupting in several towns and cities since July 15.

Iranian media and officials have reported at least three people killed in the province, including a police officer and a protester, with “opportunists” and “rioters” accused of shooting at demonstrators and security forces.

State television reported a fourth person killed on Thursday in the western province of Lorestan where people took to the streets “on the pretext of water problems in Khuzestan”.

Khuzestan is home to a large Arab minority and its people regularly complain of marginalisation.

In 2019, the province was a hotspot of anti-government protests that also shook other areas of Iran.

Over the years, blistering summer heatwaves and seasonal sandstorms blowing in from Saudi Arabia and neighbouring Iraq have dried up Khuzestan’s once fertile plains. Scientists say climate change amplifies droughts.

Earlier this month, President Hassan Rouhani said the drought was “unprecedented”, with average rainfall down 52 per cent compared with the previous year.

Iran has in recent years been hit by several protests over the economy and living conditions made worse by punishing US sanctions reimposed since 2018.

The Islamic republic, also battling the Middle East’s worst COVID-19 outbreak, on Monday marked its second daily infection record within a week, with 31,814 new infections reported in 24 hours.


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