Provinces

"The City is Doomed, Sir": Poet Censured for Photographing Besieged River in Khuzestan

April 27, 2022
OstanWire
1 min read
For the past month the poet Saeed Heleichi has been documenting fresh, aggressive development on the already-depleted Karun River in Khuzestan
For the past month the poet Saeed Heleichi has been documenting fresh, aggressive development on the already-depleted Karun River in Khuzestan
On Thursday Heleichi said he had received an anonymous, threatening call and pressured to sign a commitment to stop posting pictures
On Thursday Heleichi said he had received an anonymous, threatening call and pressured to sign a commitment to stop posting pictures

Saeed Heleichi, a poet and translator from Ahvaz, announced on Thursday that he had received a threatening call from an unknown number for posting pictures of the depleted Karun River in Ahvaz, Khuzestan province.

The pictures posted by Heleichi were meant to raise awareness of environmental degradation in the border province, which last year was rocked by weeks-long mass protests over the ongoing water crisis.

Without disclosing where or by whom, Halichi wrote that after the anonymous call, he had been "summoned" and made to sign a commitment "to not publish the truth". 

He went on: "They said the photos were being abused by foreign media. I said, 'Do you see the situation at all? The city is doomed, Sir.' He said 'We know, but you shouldn't say anything.'"

On April 24, Heleichi had published a short video of construction work on the banks of the Karun River. It clearly showed the narrowing of the waterway due to the ongoing work, and the movement of trucks up and down its length.

In the description, he had included a fragment of a poem by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, who is famous in the Arab world for his compositions about love and loss of land. Heleichi has documented other instances of development on the Karun over the past month, showing the riverbed smothered with fresh layers of sand and grit.

Khuzestan's water crisis stretches back years and is believed to be mostly anthropogenic: caused by human activity, in this case largely poor governance. Last summer, the people of Ahvaz and other cities across Khuzestan staged near-nightly mass demonstrations in the streets over catastrophic drought in the province. At least 12 people, mostly young men, were killed in the ensuing security crackdown and hundreds were rounded up and taken to detention centers.

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"The City is Doomed, Sir": Poet Censured for Photographing Besieged River in Khuzestan