Protests in Iran turned violent as police cracked down on thousands of people who turned out to demand the revival of a river that the government was leading to factories.
Farmers protested last week in Isfahan province along the Zayandeh Rud riverbed, which dried up after the government diverted water to factories owned by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
The protests escalated to violence on Friday as riot police accused the crowd in an attempt to break it up and send people home. Officers fired tear gas and pellets into the crowd, injuring about 50 people while the crowd continued with anti-regime songs, Iran’s National Resistance Council (NCRI) reported.
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State TV noted that the river provides livelihood to hundreds of thousands of farmers in the province.
The river routinely faced problems with drought and water scarcity, but the government has done little in the past to solve the problem despite promises to find solutions. The country’s Supreme Council of Water approved a nine-point plan involving the revitalization of a larger wetland, which it said was a sustainable option, but the plan never reached full implementation, Al Jazeera reported.
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President Ebrahim Raisi held a meeting with environmental experts, while Vice President Mohammad Mokhber spoke to protesters by phone to assure them that the administration was “seriously” following up on the issue.
NCRI reported that Bassiji, a volunteer paramilitary force, was also deployed on the spot.
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The violence followed an alleged arson attempt by security forces who tried to burn down the tents that the peasants had pitched during the protest. The city municipality “cleaned up” the area after the incident, but the protests continued, Radio Free Europe reported.
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