Farmers from eastern part of Isfahan have staged a protest rally near historic pol-i Khaju (Khaju Bridge) in the heart of the province’s capital, Isfahan on April 7.
Videos posted on social media show frustrated protesters chanting slogans, while the security forces try to disperse them.
Isfahan has been the scene of large protest assemblies held by angry farmers in recent weeks. The protesters believe that over the years the government has deprived them of their right to the water sources of the region. They say that either by mismanagement or receiving bribes government officials have diverted water from Isfahan to its neighboring province, Yazd.
The protests gained momentum when farmers from Varzaneh, a town in the eastern part of the province, invaded the Friday Prayer ceremony on March 18.
In an unprecedented symbolic gesture, the protesters turned their backs to the Prayer Leader, implicitly branding him and his fellow clergy as the “enemy”, chanting, “Turning away from the enemy, eying the motherland.”
President Rouhani’s administration and local authorities have repeatedly promised the enraged farmers in recent week to address their grievances by paying them compensation for not being able to irrigate their lands.
Farmers are mainly angry because of the diversion of Zayandeh Rood's water (Isfahan’s main river) to the neighboring provinces.
Protesting farmers have also slammed President Hassan Rouhani and the state-run Radio and TV with a series of vitriolic slogans, citing mismanagement of water resources.
The state-run Radio and TV which is under the direct supervision of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has totally ignored the farmers’ protests, so far.
These protests have frequently led to violent clashes between demonstrators and security forces.
The state-run news agency Mehr (MNA) had earlier cited an MP from Isfahan as blaming the violence on the government.
In a report published on March 11, Mehr quoted Isfahan’s conservative MP Hassan Kamran-Dastjerdi as telling an open session of the parliament that Iran's energy ministry has "plundered" water from farmers of Varzaneh by diverting it to steel factories and refineries in neighboring areas.
He noted that the farmers, who had been working on the land along Zayandeh Rood for centuries, are frustrated with the government’s water mismanagement.
Accusing Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian of not properly implementing a water distribution law, the conservative MP also cautioned, “The security and intelligence forces shouldn’t investigate our farmers. The water rights are theirs.”
In their new round of protest rallies on Saturday, the farmers assembled around historic Khaju Bridge in the heart of Isfahan, chanting slogans, including, “Water of Zayandeh Rood is our absolute right”, “Farmers Moaning, Zayandeh Rood wailing” and blasting Energy Minister by insisting, Ardakanian Yazdi! You’re water mafia!”
Meanwhile, Isfahan’s Governor-General Mohsen MehrAlizadeh has warned that the province is facing an “intense problem” of drinking water shortage due to lack of precipitation.
Approximately 97 percent of the country is experiencing drought to some degree, according to Iran’s Meteorological Organization (IMO).
“Towns and villages around Isfahan have been hit so hard by drought and water diversion that they have emptied out and people who lived there have moved,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director for the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), a New York-based advocacy group, told Reuters