Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Michelle Bachelet’s comments were “deplorable” because four protests left protests.
Iran on Saturday rejected “false accusations” by the UN chief of justice over protests over water shortages in the southwest of the country, where at least four people have died since last week.
Khuzestan, Iran’s most important oil-producing region and the richest of the country’s 31 provinces, has been hit by a drought since March, with protests has erupted since July 15 in several towns and cities.
Iranian media and officials said at least three people were killed, including a police officer and a protester, who accused ‘opportunists’ and ‘rioters’ of shooting at protesters and security forces.
According to state television, a fourth person was killed and two wounded during a riot in the western province of Lorestan on Thursday, where people said they had taken to the streets “under the pretext of the water problems in Khuzestan”.
Sporadic delays on the internet or interruptions have been reported in the province for several days. Despite the internet restrictions, numerous videos have come out from various provinces in Khuzestan over the past week, many shots of which can be heard and tear gas seen.
In some videos, protesters can be seen rushing angrily to security forces with baton-clad batons and riding in large numbers on motorcycles.
Farsi hashtags like #KhuzestanIsThsty and #KhuzestanHasNoWater are widely used to draw attention to the crisis and protests that have barely been covered by international media.
UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet told Iran on Friday to address the chronic water shortage in Khuzestan instead of hitting protesters.
“Shooting and arresting people will simply increase anger and desperation,” she said, adding that the “catastrophic” situation had been building up for years.
Saeed Khatibzadeh, spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, said on Saturday that Bachelet’s comments were “about the recent events in Khuzestan (deplorable)” and rejected the false accusations and misinformation.
The justice chief has failed to consider the government’s ‘major efforts’ to alleviate the suffering of the population, Khatibzadeh said in a statement, adding that it shows the ‘political’ nature of the statement.
President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday that “despite the action taken, certain problems in Khuzestan province still need to be resolved quickly”, adding that people ‘have the right to protest’ against the situation.
On Friday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said protesters could not be blamed, according to state media officials for tackling the crisis.
“The people have shown their displeasure … but we can not really blame the people and their issues need to be taken care of,” Khanenei was quoted as saying by Iranian news agencies in his first live coverage of the week-long protests.
Human rights groups abroad accused Iran of using illegal and excessive force to suppress the protests in Khuzestan and cited a higher death toll than Iranian media reported.