November 29, 2021

Violent Crackdown of Isfahan Protestors in Iran

Reports from Friday describe Iranian security forces violently clamping down on peaceful protests over water scarcity taking place in Isfahan and at least one other city. The state repression came in the form of batons, teargas, and buckshot fired indiscriminately at the protestors, many of whom are struggling farmers impacted by environmental degradation. Human rights groups, such as The Center for Human Rights in Iran, quickly and rightly condemned “the use of live fire on protesters in Isfahan,” and urged the international community, “to call on the Iranian government to allow people to protest without the threat of violence and death.”

This vicious attack on protestors was unleashed after roughly two weeks of massive demonstrations in the dry bed of the Zayandeh Rud river in Isfahan, which, before drying up, flowed through historic bridges in Isfahan such as Si-o-se Pol. These gatherings are some of the largest environmental demonstrations seen in Iran, where thousands of protestors had gathered to bring attention to the area’s water shortage and support farmers. Protestors could be heard chanting, “Give breath to Isfahan, return Zayandeh Rud.”

These two weeks of protest drew support from Iranians throughout the nation and brought people together in Isfahan to show their support, as local restaurants offered people food and barbers offered haircuts in an atmosphere that was generally calm and peaceful. Iranian state media even interviewed farmers about their grievances against state mismanagement of water resources. However, this peace did not last long as protests spread to other cities and Iranian security forces took violent measures to suppress them.

According to one farmer, they were given 10 minutes by security forces on loudspeakers to leave the riverbed. Before having enough time to move, their tents were set on fire and crowds were shot with tear gas canisters, which included women and children. According to reports, several protestors were also hospitalized with eye injuries from rubber bullets. Following a disturbing pattern of behavior by Iranian authorities during previous protests, it appears internet connections were disrupted as well. In addition, 67 people were arrested by security forces and accused of being “main actors and agitators behind the troubles.”

Testimonies and videos shared online show escalations and instigation of violence, which endangered the lives of men, women, and children. Though these protests centered around the issue of water shortages and gross environmental mismanagement by Iranian officials, they revealed deeper wounds and mistrust between the government and its citizenry. NIAC unequivocally condemns these brutal acts of state violence against peaceful demonstrators by the Iranian government. The people deserve to publicly and collectively air their grievances against the failures of those ruling over them. Iran’s water resources have been grossly mismanaged, as the demonstrators made clear. Their demands must be heard, not met with brute force and further human rights violations.

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