On Saturday, May 23, protesters clashed with security forces in Ahvaz (Khuzestan province) after residents gathered in front of the governor's office before blocking a major road with burning tires in protest against water shortages in the area. Police officers in riot gear reportedly charged the crowd and fired tear gas and rubber bullets in an attempt to reopen the Ahvaz-Gheizaniyeh road in Gheizaniyeh district. Two protesters were arrested and two police officers injured in the unrest.
Further protests are possible in Ahvaz and other parts of the country over the near term.
Similar protests have reportedly been witnessed across Iran in recent weeks, as local authorities struggle to pay workers and supply basic services amidst the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Municipal workers have staged protests in Arvand Kendar (Khuzestan province) and Khorramshahr (Khuzestan province) in the past few weeks. Nurses and medical workers have also staged protests against the government's failure to pay wages during the pandemic.
Recent unrest has raised concerns among the authorities of a return to the widespread civil protests witnessed nationwide between November 2019 and February 2020. The protests were sparked by a rise in fuel prices and the US Department of State announced on December 5, 2019, that it believes Iranian security forces had killed at least 1000 protesters amid a nationwide movement. The US figure remains unconfirmed by other organizations.
Individuals in Iran are advised to monitor developments, avoid all protests due to the risk of violence, budget extra time to reach their destinations if traveling through areas affected by demonstrations, prepare for associated disruptions to transportation and business, and adhere to instructions issued by the local authorities and their home governments.
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