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Activists: Iran's Revolutionary Guards Fire on Protesters in Deadly Flood Confrontation

FILE - An Iranian family walks through a flooded street in a village around the city of Ahvaz, in Iran's Khuzestan province, March 31, 2019.
FILE - An Iranian family walks through a flooded street in a village around the city of Ahvaz, in Iran's Khuzestan province, March 31, 2019.

This article originated in VOA's Persian Service.

Exiled Iranian opposition activists say Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has fired on protesters who tried to stop it from diverting floodwaters in a southwestern town, resulting in a protester's death.

The activists said the protester died after being shot by IRGC forces in Wednesday's predawn confrontation in the Dasht-e-Azadegan district of Khuzestan province. They said minority Iranian Arab residents of the area, also known as Ahwazis, were trying to stop the IRGC from destroying a dyke and diverting floodwaters into their farmland.

The Iran National Council for Free Elections opposition group said the IRCG forces wanted to divert floodwaters to prevent them from entering IRCG-controlled oil installations in the neighboring town of Susangerd. In a Wednesday Instagram post, the group said one protester was killed and several were wounded by IRGC fire.

In a series of tweets posted Thursday, London-based Ahwazi activist Karim Dahimi identified the dead protester as Aboud Jalizi and posted images of the man's body. Washington-based rights group Abdorrahman Boroumand Center shared Dahimi's reports about Jalizi on its Twitter feed and told VOA Persian that it considered Dahimi to be a reliable source. However, there was no official confirmation of the protester's death in Iranian state media.

In a nighttime video of the confrontation received by VOA Persian from an audience member in Iran, bursts of gunfire can be heard.

A Wednesday report by Iran's IRGC-affiliated Fars news agency confirmed that shots were fired in the incident and said two policemen and a villager were injured. Fars said authorities tried to persuade the villagers to evacuate their homes and allow the destruction of the dyke in return for compensation. It also said the dyke was removed later in the day.

Earlier Wednesday, Iranian state-backed news agency ISNA quoted IRGC spokesman Brig. Gen. Ramezan Sharif as denying what he called "rumors disseminated by hostile media" about IRGC units confronting residents in Khuzestan.

In a report published Thursday, Fars cited Iranian emergency services spokesman Mojtaba Khalidi as saying the death toll from a series of flash floods that began affecting Iran on March 19 has risen to 70, with hundreds of people injured.

Iranian leaders have drawn a torrent of criticism on social media for their perceived slow response to the disaster, which also has caused hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to agriculture and transportation networks around the country.

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