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Iran Forcefully Clamps Down on Protests Against Growing Water Shortages

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  • Iran Forcefully Clamps Down on Protests Against Growing Water Shortages


    Iran Forcefully Clamps Down on Protests Against Growing Water Shortages
    November 27, 2021

    For two weeks the Iranian government tolerated growing protests over scarce water supplies in the central Iranian city of Isfahan, watching them grow as restaurants served demonstrators free soup and barbers offered free haircuts. State television even aired interviews with farmers discussing their grievances.

    But after the protests spilled over to at least one other city, the predictable happened on Friday: The government violently cracked down.

    Security forces wielding batons, shields and guns swarmed the city’s riverbed around 4 a.m. Thursday as a group of farmers were sipping tea and chatting about protest strategy around a campfire.

    The security forces had used a megaphone to tell farmers they had 10 minutes to evacuate, Hassan Tavakoli, a 47-year-old farmer from Isfahan, said in a telephone interview. His account was backed up by several videos that were shared with The New York Times by Isfahan residents.

    “Before we had a chance to move, suddenly our tents were set on fire and they started throwing tear gas at us and shooting in the air,” Mr. Tavakoli said. He said the crowd included several families with young children and two babies.

    “I never expected them to do this to us, to beat us, fire at us and injure farmers,” he added.

    For more than two weeks, Mr. Tavakoli and hundreds of other farmers had been protesting on the dry bed of the city’s storied Zayanderoud River. Tens of thousands of people had joined them in a show of solidarity.

    Their demand: Restore water flows to the river to help irrigate farmlands laid to waste from years of mismanaging water resources.

    “We have nothing left of our lands and livelihoods, we are just asking for our water rights,” said Mr. Tavakoli. He owns three hectares of farmland that was once lush with crops of wheat, barley, and vegetables. The land has been dry and barren for 15 months, forcing Mr. Tavakoli to sell his livestock to survive...