15 Arrested at Aborted Talks Over Water Dispute in Southwestern Iran
Fifteen negotiators representing protesting farmers in the southern Iranian province of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad were arrested on May 29, 2018, as they showed up for talks over a water dispute.
“This morning [May 29] about 200 people gathered in front of the governor’s office in Yasouj to protest the action by the city’s water and sewage authority [to divert water from the river],” Mansour Norouzi, the chairman of the Mehrian Village Council, told the semi-official Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA).
“Fifteen people were chosen to represent the protesters and unfortunately when they went to the governor’s office for talks, orders were issued to arrest them and they remain in detention,” he said.
Norouzi added that one member of the council, Safiollah Ahmadi, was injured in the incident and transferred to the hospital.
The village of Mehrian, with a population of about 5,000, is located less than four miles from the city of Yasouj, the capital of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province.
Farmers are angry that water from a local river is being diverted to neighboring districts, which they say could leave approximately 2,000 acres of farmland and orchards in their village completely dry, according to Norouzi.
The director of the Yasouj water and sewage authority, Ghasem Ghalandari, has responded that the diversion is lawful and has been implemented to prevent drought in other parts of the province.
“The drinking water situation in Yasouj and surrounding villages is serious and if this project that has been approved by the government is not implemented, we will have a very difficult summer,” Ghalandari told ILNA.
“Anyone who tries to prevent the transfer of water from the river in Mehrian village will be dealt with in accordance with the law,” he added.
According to the Iran Meteorological Organization, around 97 percent of the country is experiencing drought.
But farmers throughout the country have argued that the droughts have been exacerbated by government mismanagement.
The farmers of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province, whose hopes for negotiations over the situation have now been dashed, received support from Iranians on social media.
“Even primitive tribes respected the enemy’s representatives and believed that violating that trust was dishonorable,” tweeted Shargh newspaper journalist Mohammad Mosaed on May 29.