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Politics

New Book Offers Insight Into Iran’s 2021 “Uprising Of The Thirsty”

January 4, 2023
Faramarz Davar
3 min read
“For those who want to understand the results and the consequences of unbalanced and unsustainable development, Khuzestan is a perfect case study,” the book “Protests Are Peaceful, Case Study of an Uprising” warns in its introduction.
“For those who want to understand the results and the consequences of unbalanced and unsustainable development, Khuzestan is a perfect case study,” the book “Protests Are Peaceful, Case Study of an Uprising” warns in its introduction.
Saeed Madani, the main author of the book “Protests Are Peaceful, Case Study of an Uprising,” has been behind bars since May.
Saeed Madani, the main author of the book “Protests Are Peaceful, Case Study of an Uprising,” has been behind bars since May.

At a time when Iran is witnessing unprecedented nationwide protests against the clerical establishment in Iran, Rahman Publishing Institute published a book – “Protests Are Peaceful, Case Study of an Uprising” -- about the wave of demonstrations against water shortages that rocked the country during the summer of 2021.

The main author, sociologist, university professor and human rights activist Saeed Madani, was arrested in May because of his work and is currently in solitary confinement.

The 2021 demonstrations, dubbed The Uprising of the Thirsty, erupted in the southern province of Khuzestan in mid-July, before quickly spreading to other provinces, including Isfahan, Lorestan, Eastern Azerbaijan and Tehran. Some protesters called for the end of the Islamic Republic. The security forces cracked down hard on the protests, killing several people and arresting hundreds.

The title of the new book is taken from a video shot during a water protest in the city of Susangerd in Khuzestan, home to an ethnic Arab population, in which a woman is heard shouting in Arabic that “the protests are peaceful” to prevent security forces from shooting at the demonstrators. The armed forces ignored the woman’s plea and violently clashed with the protesting crowd.

According to the authors of “Protests Are Peaceful, Case Study of an Uprising,” the first protest over water shortages in recent Iranian history broke out 40 years ago in an underprivileged neighborhood of Tehran: “On June 27, 1983, after a 48-hour cutoff of water in the neighborhood of Afsariyeh in southeastern Tehran, protesters came to the streets and blocked the Afsariyeh Expressway. Besides the water cutoff, people were also protesting the quality of water. The protests started at 8 a.m. and continued into the night.”

In the 1990s and the 2000s, similar protests rocked the southern province of Bushehr, the city of Babol in the north, Malard near Tehran, the central city of Kashan, and, of course, the drought-stricken province of Sistan and Baluchestan in the southeast.

In recent years, water protests have become more frequent and culminated with the 2021 demonstrations in Khuzestan, a province that once was home to one-third of the country’s water reserves, according to some experts.

The book recounts how the protests took shape: an unprecedented heatwave hit Khuzestan at the start of the summer. Before that, the sharp drop in the water level of Karkheh River, a major source of irrigation in the province, had created numerous problems for the farmers. On July 10, 2021, protesters from Dasht-e Azadegan and Hoveyzeh gathered in front of the Justice Department, and a week later the protests spread to the cities of Hamidiyeh, Bostan, Susangerd, Bandar Mahshahr, Abadan, Izeh, Dezful and Ahvaz, the provincial capital.

The protests followed the mass deaths of livestock due to diminishing water supplies and the drying-up of rivers and wetlands such as the Hor al-Azim (Hawizeh) Marshes. They also took on an anti-government aspect due to the widespread belief that years of mismanagement of water resources has been the main cause of the shortages.

The book confirms the view that the water crisis in Khuzestan and the rest of the country was not an unavoidable environmental phenomenon caused by climate change, but mainly the result of poor water management and wrong social policies.

According to Madani and his colleagues, a cumulation of factors led to the crisis in Khuzestan, including the government’s failure to rebuild the areas devastated by the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, high unemployment, the diverting of local water resources for national projects, and the implementation of ill-conceived projects that damaged the environment.

“Khuzestan is a faithful portrait of the results and the effects of the past economic, social and cultural policies,” the book warns in its introduction.

“For those who want to understand the results and the consequences of unbalanced and unsustainable development, Khuzestan is a perfect case study. And for those who are wrapped in numerous studies to predict Iran’s tomorrow, Khuzestan is a full-length mirror that shows what is ahead of us and what the future generation can expect.”

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