The Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that it is monitoring reports of internet outages and downturns in Iran amid ongoing anti-government protests spurred on by water shortages in the country.
State Spokesman Ned Price said in a statement issued by his office that the United States supports the “right” of the Iranian people to Express their frustrations and hold their government accountable. ”
“The Iranian people are now focusing not only on their unmet needs, but also on their unfulfilled aspirations for respect for human rights – rights to which individuals around the world are entitled,” Price explained.
The protests first broke out almost two weeks ago in Khuzestan province and have now spread across various cities, including Tehran, Karaj and Tabriz, due to a water shortage, which Price said was the result of “drought and government abuse and neglect.”
Price went on to say the State Department has seen “disturbing reports that security forces fired on protesters, resulting in more deaths.”
“We condemn the use of force against peaceful protesters,” he added. “We support the rights of Iranians to rally and express themselves peacefully without fear of violence and detention by security forces.”
“We are also monitoring reports of internet slowdowns in the region,” he continued, adding that the United States calls on “the Iranian government to enable citizens to exercise their right to freedom of expression and to free access to information, including via the Internet.”
On Sunday, CNN reported that at least three people were killed during the violent protests, with Iranian state media reporting that the deaths were a result of “suspicious bullets fired by some unknown people who penetrated among peaceful protesters.”
However, human rights groups have expressed concern that the true death toll is much higher, especially in reports that anti-riot police and security agents are shooting at some protesters.
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said in a statement Friday that Iranian authorities should take steps to tackle water shortages rather than use force against protesters.
“The impact of the devastating water crisis on the lives, health and prosperity of the people of Khuzestan should be the focus of government attention, not the protests carried out by people driven to desperation by years of neglect,” Bachelet said, adding that she was ” “Extremely concerned about the deaths and injuries that have occurred during the last week, as well as the extensive arrests and detentions.”
However, Iran pushed back on Bachelet’s statement and accused the United Nations of interfering in internal state affairs.
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