Iran, Jan. 2, 2019 – A large gathering of Isfahan farmers turned violent today after riot police attacked the peaceful protesters marching in the central province’s streets.
Around 2,000 farmers gathered this morning on Khaju Bridge in Isfahan to protest the diversion of Isfahan’s river to other provinces.
A large number of women were also among the protesters. Videos on social media showed Isfahan farmers chanting, “Today is a day of mourning because farmers have no livelihood”.
The farmers, who blame the government for water mismanagement and water scarcity which has all but destroyed their farmlands also chanted “shame on the deceitful government.” Riot police were dispatched to the area from the start of the gathering.
Videos from the gathering showed a large number of riot police on the scene with scuffles between police and the farmers. The farmers addressed the police and chanted, “Do not support the thieves”. The protesters also booed the police and chanted “bisharaf”, a Persian curse word meaning “dishonorable”.
Reports also indicated that riot police shot bullets in the air to disperse the protesters.
Background The Zayanderud River once watered this region, flowing down from the Zagros Mountains, through the city of Isfahan providing water for farming towns. But it dried up years ago.
Government policies have worsened the strain from drought and growing population. Authorities have increasingly built factories, sucking up large amounts of water. Water has also been diverted to other regions. “The water cycle has been annihilated.
The entire water of the river has been allocated to industry,” said an Isfahan environmental activist in July.
An Isfahan official who recently called the farmer’s plight a “catastrophe” said that some the people who were once wealthy, were currently so deprived and poverty stricken that they were covered by relief foundations such as the Emdad Foundation.
The representative of Falavarjan at the Isfahan Islamic Council blamed the farmers’ woes on the Ben-Brojen Plan, which incorporated providing a huge water supply to large industrial factories, the use of the water for other areas and many other decisions that resulted from mismanagement. Environmentalists have for years been setting off alarms about the threat of droughts in Iran which stems from mismanagement, the excessive use of groundwater sources, and the construction of a large number of dams primarily carried out by companies affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards Corps.
The latest official numbers say that in the provinces of Fars, South Khorasan and Isfahan, groundwater sources have dried up while dam reserves were 25 to 50% lower than last year.