Dozens of mostly women staged two rallies in the northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz in recent days to protest the shrinking of Lake Urmia, one of the world's largest salt lakes.
The first protests took place in front of the Natural Resources Department in Tabriz on August 12, and the second was held two days later outside the governorate building, according to information received by IranWire.
The demonstrators chanted slogans such as "Lake Urmia is thirsty" and "Save Lake Urmia" and held placards reading "We will not rest until the lake is rejuvenated," among other things.
"Many well-known women were among the 200 participants in the August 14 gathering, and around 20 to 30 people are engaged in environmental, social and charitable activities or are writers, musicians and painters," a source told IranWire.
The source said that the security forces used intimidation tactics against the crowd: "They threatened to take photos of everyone [and] their threats were accompanied by derogatory remarks. They said, 'Old women, why did you come here? It's none of your business.'"
After the August 14 rally, six women participants, including poets and writers Roghayeh Kabiri and Negar Khiyavi, were summoned to the Tabriz Intelligence Department for questioning.
The women were asked about the organization of the rallies and their alleged affiliations. They were also questioned about their children's overseas education.
The women refused to sign any pledge to not participate in future demonstrations, saying they have the right to take to the streets to protect Lake Urmia from further drying up.
Lake Urmia has shrunk in recent decades due to prolonged droughts and the extraction of water for farming and dams, which has had a devastating impact on the regional environment and the lives of local communities.
Iranian scientists have warned that the lake’s water levels are the lowest recorded in 60 years.
Earlier this year, former Agriculture Minister Isa Kalantari warned that the shrinking of what was once the largest lake in the Middle East could force the displacement of up to 4 million people.