Iranian Arab protesters clash with police over water scarcity

Analysts blame government mismanagement for diverting water away from some Iranian farmers in favour of others.
Tuesday 03/07/2018
Iranians protest in the city of Abadan. (Social media)
Iranians protest in the city of Abadan. (Social media)

LONDON — Iranian state media said protesters have clashed with police over water scarcity in the southwest for a second night.

IRNA news agency said protesters threw stones and debris at police and set a car on fire in a protest that began late Sunday in the city of Abadan.

The report said police blocked roads near the protest and that the situation is “under control.”

Similar clashes over water scarcity broke out in the nearby city of Khorramshahr late Saturday. Authorities say one protester and 10 police were injured, and videos posted online showed gunfire ringing out.

Abadan is home to Iran’s biggest oil refinery. The two cities are in the oil-rich Khuzestan province. The region, known historically and to its largely Arab population as Ahwaz, has suffered from chronic pollution and drought. The Arab population has also long complained of official discrimination.

IRNA did not specify how many people were involved in the Abadan demonstration, but said security forces had broken up a crowd that was “disrupting public order”.

It said people protesting over poor water quality in a western district of the city had thrown projectiles and set fire to rubbish bins and a vehicle.

The agency added that water pollution in the two cities of Khuzestan province had sparked several demonstrations over the past four days.

Iran called for calm on Sunday. “Our effort is to bring these protests to an end as soon as possible with restraint from police and the cooperation of authorities, but if the opposite happens, the judiciary and law enforcement forces will carry out their duties,” Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli was quoted as saying.

State television showed banks with broken windows and footage appearing to shows an identified demonstrator armed with a rifle.

Police fired tear gas as protesters set fire to a bridge, and to a garden surrounding a museum which is a memorial to the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, state media said.

A number of protests have broken out in Iran since the beginning of the year over water, a growing political concern due to a drought which residents of parched areas. The Iran Meteorological Organization estimates 97 percent of the country faced some form of drought. 

Analysts also blame government mismanagement for diverting water away from some farmers in favour of others.

“Although Iran has a history of drought, over the last decade, Iran has experienced its most prolonged, extensive and severe drought in over 30 years,” said a recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization, a United Nations agency.

Some 230 people were poisoned in the province after a 20-hour water outage in Ramhormoz county led to drinking water not being chlorinated, the semi-official Fars news agency reported Sunday. 

(The Arab Weekly staff and news agencies)