Iran News Update, 23 April 2018 - On April 13th, as farmers continued their protests against the government’s water policies in Iran’s Isfahan Province, they received a surprising blow. During a Friday prayer sermon in Isfahan on that same day, Ayatollah Yousef Tabatabaeinejad said, “As someone who has always been on the farmers’ side, I don’t think they have the right to demonstrate.
” He added, “Religious and revolutionary farmers would not do such a thing. They should separate themselves from seditious elements.”
The Iran Meteorological Organization reports that at least 97 percent of the country is experiencing drought to some degree. However, Isfahan’s farmers say that government mismanagement has exacerbated the drought, as water is diverted from the province’s main river to neighboring Yazd Province.
On April 14th, a video was on YouTube that shows a farmer talking about the province’s crippling water shortage problem. “I’m standing by the Zayanderud River near Hovieh village. There used to be a lot of water here but now it’s dry,” he says. “We have no water and our wells have dried up because of mismanagement. If the officials in charge of water management in the province had acted properly, we would not have had this problem today.” He adds, “Moreover, our water is being re-directed to Yazd Province, where factory owners should have thought about the lack of water first before building their plants.”
Videos of the rallies held on April 13th — the fifth since mid-March — showed demonstrators, including many women, “farmers will give their life before accepting humiliation,” and, “death to the government that deceives the people,” as well as, “the enemy is right here; they’re lying when they say he’s in America.”
On April 13th, a video posted on Twitter shows a heavy security presence equipped with water cannons at the protest in Isfahan. One person claims via loudspeaker that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has been tough on government corruption. Still, he doesn’t quiet down the crowd.
Judiciary Spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei warned farmers not to get mixed up with “opportunists” on March 18th. A police chief told protesters that “anyone who chants slogans about anything other than water is a hypocrite,” on April 11th.
“Hypocrite” is a word that is used by Iranian officials to describe members of an organization based outside the country that advocates for regime change in Iran, the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK).
Earlier this month saw protests over arrests. People chanted, “innocent farmers must be freed.” Officials have not announced the number of people who have been arrested.
Isfahan’s Governor General Mohsen Alizadeh described the water situation as “crippling” on April 13th, warning the province’s 5.2 million inhabitants that they may face more water shortages in the upcoming hot summer months.
While and allocation of 400 million cubic meters of water per year for farming was promised to the province, for the past several years, the government has failed to do so, according to semi-official Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA). ISNA reported on April 9th, that some 300,000 farmers had suffered substantial profit losses due to water shortages, as only about 40 percent of farmland is being cultivated. ISNA did not specify if it was referring to the provincial or the state government.
The province’s governor general claimed that 37.6 billion rials (approximately $8.9 million USD) was paid out to 27,600 farming families, but farmers in Isfahan are angry, saying that the government has not honored its pledge to compensate them for lost income.
All sectors of Iranian society — students, teachers, and farmers, have been imprisoned for protesting against state policies, according to an April 12th tweet by journalist and former political prisoner Mahsa Amrabadi, who added, “The circle is getting constantly wider and will eventually swallow us all.”