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The Reasons Of The Wrath


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After several weeks of demonstrations in Isfahan, against the policies of management of water resources, the Iranian police intervened, Saturday, as well as the day before, to prevent the gatherings. The country is experiencing an increase in drought episodes.

They met every day in the dry bed of their river, the Zayandeh-roud, to cry out their anger. Since November 12, demonstrations have been organized almost daily by residents and farmers of Isfahan, Iran’s third largest city, to complain about the terrible drought that has hit the region for years.

On Saturday, November 27, the Iranian authorities put an end to these popular demonstrations with the help of the riot police, preventing the protesters from reaching the bed of Zayandeh-roud. The day before, the demonstration had ended with scenes of violence that left at least two seriously injured. Several videos posted on social networks attest to these repressions.

According to the Isfahan police, the movement, initiated by farmers, frustrated at not having been able to water their autumn crops, was taken over by “the opportunists and the counter-revolutionaries” who set street furniture on fire. Police officers, members of the Revolutionary Guards – the ideological army of the Islamic Republic – and intelligence services called in as reinforcements, made 67 arrests, according to the provincial police chief.

Poor water management

For the inhabitants of Isfahan, Zayandeh-roud, spanned by several monumental bridges classified as World Heritage by Unesco, is part of the identity of their city. In the evening, they usually meet along its banks for a picnic with the family or listen to traditional singers posted. under its bridges with illuminated arcades.

Residents of Isfahan walk on the dry bed of the Zayandeh-roud River on July 10, 2018. © AP

The drought due to global warming, which caused the disappearance of several glaciers in the province, is perceived as one of the causes of the drying up of this river, which has been dry since 2000 except for a few brief periods. But farmers in the region are also protesting against the authorities’ diversion of part of the water, upstream of the city, to supply the neighboring province of Yazd, which is also in dire need of water. .

“Iran is experiencing more and more problems of access to water, and this is not only linked to global warming but to bad governance”, explains Jonathan Piron, historian specializing in Iran for the center Etopia research center in Brussels. In question, the construction of large dams aiming to produce hydraulic energy and to redistribute water towards the agricultural surfaces of other regions and towards the large steel conglomerates, greedy for this liquid body.

The city of Isfahan, besides being located in one of the main agricultural regions of Iran, is an important industrial center. Farmers in the province say they are victims of these heavy industries, accused of wasting natural resources. They are calling for the region’s tile and steel industries to be more logically based in a coastal area, “and not in a province miles from the sea.”

The whole country is severely affected by drought

Isfahan is not the only one affected by this drought crisis. Nearby, in the province of Chahar Mahal-Bakhtiari, several hundred people also demonstrated on Wednesday to demand a solution to the shortage of drinking water. According to Iranian television, about 300 villages are now supplied by tanker truck.

Farmers across the country have been severely affected by water shortages over the past decade and protests have erupted in many parts of Iran. This summer, residents of Khuzestan, located in the southwest of the country, suffered severe water cuts. The province has been the scene of multiple demonstrations which have left several dead.

“While its population has skyrocketed, the country is realizing that its water resources are limited. However, its agricultural model needs to be reviewed. This is not based on sustainable management”, summarizes Jonathan Piron, who has been researching water in Iran for several years. And the specialist lists “agricultural aberrations”, such as the development of rice cultivation, which consumes a lot of water, in a region like Khouzestan, where rainfall has halved in a few years. “The Iranian state is in a logic of food sovereignty. The priority being to have an ‘economy of resistance’, and not to need the help of anyone”, details the researcher.

Environmental activists in prison

“The State is blocked, it is engulfed in a logic which does not make any more sense”, analyzes Jonathan Piron. As global warming has led to a decrease in water resources, opening the valve to supply one region amounts to reducing the hydraulic resources of another, which will in turn run out of water. “This short-term policy has shown its limits. And to that is added corruption and the outlook which is not good with global warming.”

Environmental activists did try to alert, but several of them were arrested in 2018 and sentenced to ten years in prison. “They are embarrassing because they demand structural and political transformations that go against the interests of the system and therefore of the Revolutionary Guards,” says Jonathan Piron. The latter have, in fact, many companies in Iran, especially in the dam construction sectors.

The urgency is however there. Experts foresee a worsening of the situation in the coming years, with social conflicts, but also displacement of the population from the southern regions to the north, less affected by the drought.

Governing the protests in Isfahan, Iranian President Ebrahim Raïssi promised on November 11 to solve the water problem affecting the region, as well as Yazd. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has called this subject a “problem of the country”, without alluding to the demonstrations. “These are not Ali Khamenei’s first statements, but as they are not followed by actions, part of the population no longer believes in them”, notes Jonathan Piron.

With AFP

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France 24-Trans

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