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Iran uses unlawful force in water protest crackdown

Iran uses unlawful force in water protest crackdown
Among the forces suppressing the protesters included Special Unit and IRGC’s Basij forces
posted onNovember 27, 2021

Iranian authorities are using extensive force to crack down on protesters in the city of Isfahan, where mass demonstrations have been held to support the farmers’ demands for water and their call for the revival of the city’s lifeblood river Zayanderud.

The clamp down started on Thursday, Nov. 25, when farmers’ tents on the dry river bed of Zayanderud, where they had been holding peaceful sit-in protests for over two weeks, were set on fire by security forces, according to eyewitness accounts. Reportedly, shots and tear gas were also fired.

Apparently, this show of force by the Iranian authorities was done to scare the public into abandoning the scheduled protests of the following day.

In spite of this, the farmers and citizens of Isfahan resumed their protests on Friday, Nov. 26, marching in the streets and gathering on the dried-out river bed of Zayanderud, at the city's Khaju Bridge.

Dozens of videos received show anti-riot forces charging towards protesters on foot and on motorcycles, with batons and shields, and firing tear gas, trying to forcibly disperse the crowd. People can be heard chanting "Shame on you" in protest against the crackdown in many of the videos.

Based on the videos received, it appears that the state forces also fired birdshots, and fired in the air, according to some accounts, and in many videos, shots can be heard.

Among the forces suppressing the protesters included Special Unit and IRGC’s Basij forces, according to the video reports received.

Some of the videos show people bleeding from wounds sustained as a result of the crackdown. In one video, an elderly man is seen trying to stop the bleeding in his injured eye.

The demonstrators on Friday chanted slogans calling for unity between Isfahan and Shahrekord, where there have also been rallies held over water shortages. “We won’t go home until water comes back to the river,” the protesters chant in another video.

In some of the videos sent, people can be heard chanting anti-regime slogans, such as “Death to the Dictator” and “Death to Khamenei”, referring to the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic regime in Iran.

The recent round of protests by farmers in Isfahan, demanding water for their lands, began on November 8, since when they have been rallying and staging overnight sit-ins in tents set up on the dry river bed of Zayanderud.

The largest of the protests took place last Friday, when thousands of demonstrators rallied on Zayanderud’s dried-out river bed to show their solidarity with the region’s farmers and to demand the restoration of the river’s water flow.

The farmers of Isfahan have been holding rallies for many years over their denied water rights. The Zayanerud river is the main water source for agriculture in the central region of Iran.

Overuse of Zayanderud’s water supply, mainly by the steel industries affiliated with state’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and through its transfer to other parts of Iran, due to mismanagement of authorities, is believed by experts to be the primary cause of the water crisis facing Isfahan, rather than the drought caused by climate change.

The water that should flow through Zayanderud river has been diverted and used for other purposes amid the shortage, and apart from occasional revivals, the river has been left mainly dry for years, a fact that has caused great discontent among the city’s residents.

This year, Iran also saw protests over water shortages in its southwestern province of Khuzestan during the summer. These demonstrations spread to other regions of the country and evolved into protests against the regime. Several people were killed and injured, and many were arrested during the state’s brutal crackdown on the protests, a fact Amnesty International has confirmed.