For the second Friday in a row, large numbers of people in Isfahan have joined protesting farmers in the dry bed of the Zayanderud River, calling for the government to save what they describe as the vital artery of their region.
Media have shared photographs and videos showing thousands gathering in front of the Khajoo Bridge, one of Isfahan's most historic and famous bridges, shouting: ”Give us back Zayanderud, give Isfahan a breath of fresh air."
They joined one of the organizers, who shouted out on a loudspeaker: ”We were alive, we were alive with water, your dryness is our sorrow, we are not happy ..."
Crowds gathered at the same place on Friday, November 12. Footage from the November 19 rally shows a much bigger turnout.
Protesting farmers have pitched tents on the dry floor of the Zayanderud for more than two weeks now. Farmers gathered in East Isfahan camped in red tents, while others in West Isfahan stayed in blue ones.
Despite the cold weather, they say it’s vital they voice their anger about what has been happening in Isfahan, the capital of one of Iran's most economically and agriculturally important provinces.
In another film broadcast on Iranian television, women are heard shouting, "Landslides are the problem of this land."
As farmers marched along the dry bed, one Isfahani farmer spoke to the media about water rights and what he described as the "water mafia.” He said heavy industry in Isfahan has caused air pollution and excessive water consumption and waste. Behind him, people cheered him on.
Some videos have shown people shouting anti-government slogans and calling for the resignation of "incompetent managers."
Farmers have been increasingly frustrated by their failure to be Abel to water their autumn crops, wheat in particular. "If our share of water is not provided soon, given the current situation, others’ shares of various other parts of the river should be reduced," the farmers told the Iranian Students’ News Agency.
Isfahan, as well as being a key place for agriculture, is an important industrial hub for Iran. Farmers explain that industries such as tile production and steel should be based near the sea, “not in a province miles from the sea.” They say they are being discriminated against, and have been at loggerheads with the government about the state of the Zayanderud for years.
Prior to the recent protest, about 5,000 farmers protested in Isfahan on October 1, and addressed President Ebrahim Raisi and his government directly. ”Water consumption in various sectors, including industry, should be reduced to provide water for autumn wheat cultivation."
But the Zayandehud is not only important to farmers. For the people of Isfahan, it is part of the city’s identity. When the water flows, they rejoice. When the riverbed dries up, they feel bitter and upset.
Many of them support the farmers’ complaints about industry, saying it has created an air pollution crisis in their province.
The drought crisis, however, is not unique to Isfahan. Farmers across the country have been severely affected by water shortages in Iran over the past decade, and protests have erupted in many areas. Some of them, such as the rallies in Khuzestan, have become violent, with security forces responding in anger to fed-up farmers and locals.
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