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Isfahan's Conservative Ayatollah Says 'No Water, No Taxes'

Ayatollah Yousef Tabatabaei Nezhad

In an unprecedented comment, the Friday Prayer Leader of Isfahan, central Iran, has suggested that paying taxes to the government should be "conditional".

"The amount of tax paid by the people of Isfahan is equal to the amount of the tax paid by the people of eleven small provinces of Iran; therefore, if the government expects to receive tax from Isfahanis, it should spend it where the tax comes from", asserted Ayatollah Yousef Tababaei-Nezhad.

Meanwhile, Tabatabaei-Nezhad, who is directly appointed by the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called upon the representatives of Isfahan to Majles (parliament) to reconsider their recent decision to boycott attending the parliament sessions.

Nineteen MPs from Isfahan province refused to attend a parliamentary session last Sunday, December 16, to protest President Hassan Rouhani's failure in keeping its promise to revive Isfahan's lifeline, Zayandeh Rood river, which has recently been dried up.

The MPs are also protesting the elimination of money allocated to water projects in Isfahan from the next year budget.

In this July 10, 2018 photo, the Zayandeh Rood river no longer runs under the 400-year-old Si-o-seh Pol bridge, named for its 33 arches, in Isfahan, Iran.
In this July 10, 2018 photo, the Zayandeh Rood river no longer runs under the 400-year-old Si-o-seh Pol bridge, named for its 33 arches, in Isfahan, Iran.

Isfahan has witnesses large and at times violent protests this year by farmers who have been deprived of their traditional water resources.

Speaking at last Friday Prayer ceremony, Ayatollah Tabatabaei-Nezhad defended the MPs position, insisting, "We supported them for they have relayed the voice of the people of Isfahan to the authorities, and ultimately, it led the president to issue an executive order for the establishment of the Zayandeh Rud river revival headquarters."

Furthermore, Tabatabaei-Nezhad reiterated that the newly established headquarters will address the problem of water shortage that tens of thousands of farmers in eastern parts of Isfahan are suffering from.

Presenting the new headquarters as "cure-all medicine" for Isfahan's tribulations, the hardline Ayatollah said, addressing the problem of water shortage will also lead to setting up the infrastructure needed for promoting tourism in Isfahan.

"Allocating the tax paid by the people of Isfahan to local projects will reactivate all industries, whereas we are currently witnessing their day-by day downfall," Tabatabaei-Nezhad lamented.

Earlier in 2016, the black-turbaned Ayatollah had claimed that the act of women taking pictures of themselves by Zayandeh Rood river was sin that contributed to water drying up.

Isfahan has been recently the scene of widespread demonstrations against transferring water from the province's resources to the neighboring areas.

In a report published on March 11, the state-run news agency, Mehr, quoted ultraconservative MP Hassan Kamran-Dastjerdi as complaining about the government diverting water from Isfahan to a neighboring province. He noted that the farmers, who had been working on the land along the Zayandeh Rood river for centuries, are frustrated with the government’s water mismanagement.

In an unprecedented move on March 16, frustrated farmers stormed the city of Isfahan Friday Prayer's compound and turned their backs to the podium in an expression of anger and dissatisfaction.

Video footage of the protests also showed the farmers chanting, “Turning our backs to the enemy, our faces to the motherland.”

Protesting farmers also slammed President Hassan Rouhani and the state-run Radio and TV with a series of vitriolic slogans, citing mismanagement of water resources.

The farmers' protests against drought and water mismanagement have frequently led to violent clashes between demonstrators and security forces.

Moreover, farmers from eastern parts of Isfahan have repeatedly smashed the pipes transferring water to Yazd, engaging in bloody clashes with security forces.