SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Friday that Iranians protesting over water shortages in the southwest cannot be blamed, Iran’s state media reported.
Khamenei also called on officials to deal with water problem, Iranian news agencies cited him as saying.
“The people showed their displeasure … but we cannot really blame the people and their issues must be taken care of,” Khamenei said, in reference to the week-long protests, according to Reuters.
“Now, thank God, all the various agencies, governmental and non-governmental, are working [to resolve the water crisis] and should continue with all seriousness,” Khamenei added.
Protests broke out in several cities and towns in the oil-rich Khuzestan province over water crises, as Iran is facing its worst drought in 50 years.
The water crisis has affected households, devastated agriculture and livestock farming and led to power blackouts.
Videos uploaded by social media users showed security forces using teargas to disperse protesters.
At least 31 protests took place across Iran on Monday and Tuesday, including rallies by workers and farmers, according to the dissident Human Rights Activists News Agency.
Iran’s economy has been blighted by sanctions imposed by former U.S. President Donald Trump, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Workers, including thousands in the key energy sector, and pensioners have protested for months amid discontent over mismanagement, unemployment and inflation.