Iranian police crack down as protests over dry river turn violent

Farmers last week protested in Isfahan province along the Zayandeh Rud Riverbed, which dried up after the government diverted the water to factories owned by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Iranians gather during a protest to voice their anger after their province's lifeblood river dried up due to drought and diversion, in the central city of Isfahan, op November 19, 2021. - The massive protest, that drew in farmers and other people from across Isfahan province, was the biggest since demonstrations over the water crisis started on November 9. (Photo by Fatmeh Nasr / ISNA / AFP) (Photo by FATMEH NASR/ISNA/AFP via Getty Images)

Iranians gather during a protest to voice their anger after their province’s lifeblood river dried up due to drought and diversion, in the central city of Isfahan, op November 19, 2021. – The massive protest, that drew in farmers and other people from across Isfahan province, was the biggest since demonstrations over the water crisis started on November 9. (Photo by Fatmeh Nasr / ISNA / AFP) (Photo by FATMEH NASR/ISNA/AFP via Getty Images) ( (Photo by Fatmeh Nasr / ISNA / AFP) (Photo by FATMEH NASR/ISNA/AFP via Getty Images))

The protests descended into violence Friday as riot police charged the crowd in an effort to break it up and send people home. Officers fired tear gas and pellets into the crowd, injuring around 50 people as the crowd continued anti-regime chants, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) berig.

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State TV noted that the river provides livelihood for hundreds of thousands of farmers in the province.

Iranians gather during a protest to voice their anger after their province's lifeblood river dried up due to drought and diversion, in the central city of Isfahan, op November 19, 2021. - The massive protest, which drew in farmers and other people from across Isfahan province, was the biggest since demonstrations over the water crisis started on November 9. (Photo by Fatmeh Nasr / ISNA / AFP) (Photo by FATMEH NASR/ISNA/AFP via Getty Images)

Iranians gather during a protest to voice their anger after their province’s lifeblood river dried up due to drought and diversion, in the central city of Isfahan, op November 19, 2021. – The massive protest, which drew in farmers and other people from across Isfahan province, was the biggest since demonstrations over the water crisis started on November 9. (Photo by Fatmeh Nasr / ISNA / AFP) (Photo by FATMEH NASR/ISNA/AFP via Getty Images) ( (Photo by Fatmeh Nasr / ISNA / AFP) (Photo by FATMEH NASR/ISNA/AFP via Getty Images))

The river routinely faced issues of drought and water shortage, but the government has done little to address the issue in the past despite promises to find solutions. The country’s Supreme Council of Water approved a nine-point plan that involved reviving a major wetland it said was a sustainable option, but the plan never reached full implementation, Al Jazeera berig.

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President Ebrahim Raisi held a meeting with environmental experts while Vice President Mohammad Mokhber addressed the protesters by phone to assure them the administration was “ernstig” following up on the issue.

Iranians gather during a protest to voice their anger after their province's lifeblood river dried up due to drought and diversion, in the central city of Isfahan, op November 19, 2021. - The massive protest, that drew in farmers and other people from across Isfahan province, was the biggest since demonstrations over the water crisis started on November 9. (Photo by Fatmeh Nasr / ISNA / AFP) (Photo by FATMEH NASR/ISNA/AFP via Getty Images)

Iranians gather during a protest to voice their anger after their province’s lifeblood river dried up due to drought and diversion, in the central city of Isfahan, op November 19, 2021. – The massive protest, that drew in farmers and other people from across Isfahan province, was the biggest since demonstrations over the water crisis started on November 9. (Photo by Fatmeh Nasr / ISNA / AFP) (Photo by FATMEH NASR/ISNA/AFP via Getty Images) ((Photo by Fatmeh Nasr / ISNA / AFP) (Photo by FATMEH NASR/ISNA/AFP via Getty Images))

The NCRI reported that the Bassiji, a voluntary paramilitary force, deployed at the scene as well.

The violence followed an alleged arson attempt by security forces, who tried to burn down the tents the farmers had set up during the protest. The city’s municipalitycleaned upthe area following the incident, but the protests continued, Radio Free Europe berig.

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