Clashes during water shortage protests, Iran blames malicious outsiders

Farmer protests about water shortage in Iran led to clashes between the police and protestors. Authorities blame malicious outsiders: the United States.

Zayanderud river bridge
A bridge on the Zayanderud river in Isfahan. The river is dry most of the year | © Romain Bréget, 2018

Farmers were protesting in Isfahan, Iran’s third largest city, for two weeks about water shortage. They had installed a camp on the dry riverbed.

But on November 25, security forces came in to dismantle the camp and burn their tents, Iran International reported. Authorities considered the issue had been addressed after a meeting few days before.

As a reaction, people gathered in the city center on Friday where authorities dispersed the protesters, reportedly using tear gas, batons and pellet shot. On Thursday, Internet connection were reportedly shut down to avoid spreading more videos and images on social media. The number of people injured or arrested was unclear.

Farmers originally requested their share of water for the Zayanderud river. However, the river has been dry most of the time in the last two decades between Isfahan and Yazd, a city about 300 km (186 mi) east of Isfahan.

Droughts and global warming make the situation worse but the management of water by the authorities is also being challenged.

In fact, more than a million cubic meters of water is staying in a massive water tank less than 100 km (62 mi) upstream of Esfahan: the Zayanderud dam.

For Iran, the U.S. was behind the scenes of the protests

The dam started operating in the 70s in order to regulate floods and water distribution. The dam also supports a power station.

On November 21, the Iranian minister of Energy blamed the country’s worst drought in 50 years but also considered the issue was mainly related to unfair distribution of water resources. Water management issues affect the provinces of Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, Isfahan, Yazd and Khuzestan.

Some of the projects meant to tackle water scarcity have been stopped for 10 years, he further justified. For the president Ebrahim Raisi, “complex administrative system of the country causes skepticism among investors“.

But a week later, after the protest moved from the riverbed to the streets, the Chief Justice of Iran justified the police crackdown by some malicious outsiders who entered the ranks of the protest to disrupt peace. He claimed that “the enemy” – the United States – was behind the scene.

On November 27, a U.S. Department of State spokesperson declared being “deeply concerned about the violent crackdown against peaceful protestors in Isfahan”.

The protests come about 2 years after the “Bloody November” when the government cracked down on protestors and killed 1,500 people.

Moreover, on November 29, talks about Iran’s nuclear program resume with the international community in Vienna after it was suspended for five-month.

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تاکید وزیر نیرو بر سرعت‌بخشي اجرای پروژه‌های آب در اصفهان, Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, November 2021, Free accessمردم در مطالبات به حق خود اجازه رخنه بدخواهان را ندهند, Islamic Republic news agency, November 2021, Free access

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