A controversial proposal to divide the ancient city of Kazeroon into two separate entities has been shelved for the time being, Iran’s Interior Ministry announced May 17.
Residents have been protesting for nearly a year against the planned split, which they say would unfairly divide scarce water resources among the two new cities and would have borders drawn in such a way as to leave all of Kazeroon’s historic sites to one of the successor cities and not the other.
At least one person has died since the protests began, and dozens have been detained. The unrest culminated in a massive rally in front of the Intelligence Ministry’s local office May 16.
In its announcement the Interior Ministry said the plan would be taken under consideration by experts and that the “people’s concerns” would be taken into account in order to eliminate the plan’s “deficiencies.”
The ministry has also warned, however, that “whoever disturbs public peace and order will be firmly dealt with.”
The city’s representative to the parliament, Hossein Rezazadeh, was the one who initially proposed dividing the city. Based on his motion, two of the city’s districts would be separated from Kazeroon, creating a new city named Koohchinar. The proposal placed the city’s two main historic sites, including the ancient city of Bishapur founded 226 AD, inside the boundaries of the new city. At the same time, the proposed plan would also deprive Kazeroon of its main water resources, as they would fall inside the new city.
Bahram Parseinejad, a reformist MP from Shiraz, the capital of the Fars province where Kazroon is located, says the real cause behind the recent rallies is people’s dissatisfaction with the management of the country.
People of Kazeroon are using the controversial proposal as “an excuse” to “protest poverty, hardship, corruption, and unemployment” said Parsaeinejad after the May 16 bloody protests adding, “like many other Iranians across the country, citizens of Kazeroon are also trying to force authorities to listen to their concerns and demands.”
Former Crown Prince and exiled heir to the throne of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, praised the “noble and brave” people of Kazeroon for their “courage and resolve” in a tweet, and described police violence against unarmed people of the city as “another crime” committed by the “occupiers of Iran.”
The proposal for dividing Kazeroon has led to divisions between Rezazadeh and the city’s Friday Prayer leader, mid-ranking cleric Mohammad Khorsand.
Khorsand, a de-facto representative of the Supreme Leader in Kazeroon, has described the plan as “dubious,” saying, “Sadly, the plan to divide Kazeroon suffers from a lack of transparency and does not take into account the opinions of experts,” and adding that the authorities are trying to sow seeds of discord in the city.
Encouraged by Khorsand’s opposition to the plan, protesters stormed the city’s Friday prayer venue April 20 chanting angry slogans against the city’s MP as well as the state-run radio and TV, which aired developments in Gaza instead of covering the protests.
Iranians have increasingly gathered in front of Friday prayer venues to air a variety of grievances, including economic hardships and lack of freedom.
Protestors in front of the Friday Prayer site in Kazeroon turned the four-decades-old Islamic Republic slogan “Death to America” on its head by chanting “Our enemy’s right here; they lie and say it’s America!”
Reportedly, many protesters in Kazeroon have warned that if the plan is not permanently cancelled, they will invite their Friday prayer leader to join them in a protest march towards the province’s capital, Shiraz, and from there, if necessary, towards the capital, Tehran, 1000 km (640 miles) to the north.