Rare mass protests have hit a large central Iranian city over persisting water shortages and continued economic woes which is fast creating a humanitarian crisis as farmers are losing their crops.
Thousands gathered in central Isfahan, outraged over government mismanagement which has allowed a key river to dry up completely. "Footage broadcast by state television and dozens of videos circulating on social media on Friday showed a sea of farmers and other people standing on a huge barren strip of dirt where the major Zayandeh Rud River used to flow, near the iconic Khaju Bridge in Isfahan province," Al Jazeera reports.
Massive Protest in Isfahan #Iran today against drought, corruption and poor management.— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) November 19, 2021
Internet disruptions now being reported, and heavier security presence now to quell gatherings at night: pic.twitter.com/0uygcusVyx
Lack of resources - which has of late also included gasoline after last month a major cyberattack disrupted a national program for state-subsidized fuel, literally taking gas stations offline for days and weeks (it was widely blamed on Israel) - has fueled sporadic protests for much of the past year, also amid rolling blackouts as the power grid has been strained to the max across major cities.
The current protest in Isfahan has been underway for much of the past week, but Friday saw the biggest gathering yet, gaining international media attention. Isfahan is the country's third-largest city.
Iranian officials have reportedly been under pressure to find a solution for the region's lack of water. "The key river has faced water shortages and droughts for years, and farmers have intermittently protested the lack of attention given to the issue. But officials have yet to find a sustainable solution to the problem," Al Jazeera notes further.
Large protest in Iran’s Isfahan over the drying up of Zayandeh Rood river pic.twitter.com/gLlvjmoWxF— Golnaz Esfandiari (@GEsfandiari) November 19, 2021
Most provinces in the Islamic Republic have already endured years of drought, and the recent energy woes - exacerbated by US-led sanctions which in some cases have crippled technicians' ability to quickly replace grid parts - have escalated anti-government sentiment.
Many of Iran's modern high-rise buildings are not designed to stay cool with lack of power, leading residents in sweltering conditions. But the water access issue, particularly in central and southern Iran, remains the most immediate pressing problem.
#Iran: Massive gathering in my hometown of #Isfahan. It’s no longer just the farmers, but thousands more have joined in solidarity to protest the catastrophic management of water resources by the regime that has dried up city’s river. In a shift state media is covering it too. pic.twitter.com/ojHkTexQQU— Bahman Kalbasi (@BahmanKalbasi) November 19, 2021
"Precipitation had decreased by almost 50 percent in the last year, leaving dams with dwindling water supplies to fuel the country," an Associated Press report from last summer emphasized.