An aerial view of flooding in Khuzestan province, Iran, April 5, 2019. Picture taken April 5, 2019. Mehdi Pedramkhoo/Tasnim News Agency/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY - RC1D283A8CB0

April 15, 2019

Iran’s Khuzestan Experiences more Protests

The regime’s inability to deal with massive destruction caused by the recent flooding in Iran and the regime’s limitations in providing economic assistance to the millions of affected Iranians could lead to the intensification of protests in southwestern Iran and the possible reemergence of massive anti-regime protests. Heavy rains and flooding has caused billions of dollars in infrastructural damage throughout Iran, killed nearly 80 people, and left nearly two million people in need of humanitarian aid. Many of those affected are in the southwestern Iranian province of Khuzestan. Khuzestan Province is one of Iran’s most natural resource-rich provinces. It is also the home of Iranian Arabs, one of Iran’s most economically-disenfranchised ethnic minorities. Southwestern Iran has been the location of some of Iran’s most violent and sustained protest movements in 2018, including ethnic, labor, and ecological protests.

Iranian Arabs in several western localities of Ahvaz took to the streets early in the evening on April 12. Protests were small and were mostly non-violent. Unconfirmed social media reports claimed that the regime deployed Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) anti-riot units to quell the demonstrations. Demonstrations continued throughout the weekend in other parts close to Ahvaz but have not spread to other major cities or intensified in nature. The last report of protest activity was from early in the morning on April 14.

Protesters cited grievances with the regime’s response in handling the recent flooding. During a confrontation with former Basij Organization Commander Mohammad Reza Naghdi before the evening protests on April 12 in Ahvaz, protesters chanted “Khuzestan has been washed away and [our] leaders have fallen asleep!” Videos disseminated on social media allege that protesters complained of the government’s purposeful redirection of flood waters to Iranian villages and towns, submerging whole towns and ruining crops. Regime officials reportedly redirected the floodwater in order to protect oil infrastructure located in the region. Regime officials denied the rumors.

Protests in Khuzestan could lead to a larger protest movement across Iran. Mounting U.S. economic pressure on Iran may peak over the coming weeks, compounding existent financial issues and subsequently forcing people into the streets

Khuzestan has long been a tinderbox for anti-regime protests in Iran. Recent demonstrations and growing dissatisfaction with the government’s actions there could bring more intense anti-regime protests.