Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei urged officials in the next Iranian government to address the “painful” problems regarding water shortage in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, which underwent days of street protests.
“Over the past seven or eight days, one of our concerns has been the issue of Khuzestan and the people’s problems relating to the shortage of water. It is truly painful for one to witness that despite the loyal people of Khuzestan, its natural resources and potential, and the many factories existing in that province, things have reached a point in that province where the people have become dissatisfied and displeased,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in remarks published on his website khamenei.ir on Friday.
The Leader said the grievances of the people of Khuzestan are legitimate, adding that their complaints should have been addressed before to prevent the current situation.
“The people expressed their frustration, but no one can blame them, because the issue of water is not a small thing, especially in that hot climate of Khuzestan,” said the Leader.
Ayatollah Khamenei stated that he had repeatedly notified officials before about the need to address the water issue in Khuzestan, Press TV reported.
“If those recommendations had been followed, the current situation would certainly have not arisen.”
He said the governmental and non-governmental organizations have started work to address the issues in Khuzestan while urging the authorities to seriously follow the demands of the people.
Ayatollah Khamenei also cautioned people against playing into the hands of trouble-makers.
“The enemy seeks to use everything against the revolution, the country and the interests of the people; therefore, care must be taken not to give it an excuse.”
Khuzestan, Iran’s main oil-producing region has been gripped by drought since March, with protests erupting in several towns and cities since July 15.
Over the years, blistering summer heat waves and seasonal sandstorms blowing in from Saudi Arabia and neighboring Iraq have dried up Khuzestan’s once fertile plains. Scientists say climate change amplifies droughts, AFP wrote.
The day before, outgoing President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech that residents of Khuzestan had “the right to speak, express themselves, protest, and even take to the streets, but within the framework of regulations”.
Iran’s President-elect SeyyedEbrahimRaeisi said on Sunday that resolving Khuzestan’s problems will be among the main priorities of his administration.
First VicePresident Es’haqJahangiri, who traveled to the region on Friday, said the government will do whatever possible to resolve problems in Khuzestan.
On a visit to the province,Major General Hossein Salami, the chief commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, said the IRGC will live up to its commitments to the people of Khuzestan and will stand by the people in the hardships and the water crisis.
Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said the security forces had been ordered “to immediately release those detained during the recent incidents in Khuzestan who had not committed a criminal act”.
Referring to Khuzestan’s population, Shamkhani tweeted on Friday that “to feel discriminated against is more painful than droughts and water shortages”.