In recent days, people in two Iranian provinces, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari and Khuzestan, have protested water shortages.
About 3,000 people in Farrokhshahr, from the western Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province, protested the implementation of the Beheshtabad Project.
Protesters, including the women who made up a large part of the rally, chanted: “We die but do not accept humiliation.”
State television reacted to the May 26 rally, reporting that the Beheshtabad Project is a plan to transfer water from Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province to Iran’s Central Plateau.
Residents of Farrokhshahr maintain that if this project is implemented, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province will become a desert. The plan calls for about one billion cubic meters of water to be diverted to the Central Plateau every year.
The water project is one of the plans put forward by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and goes against the interests of local residents.
The IRGC Khatam ol-Anbiya Garrison is the contractor tasked with implementing this project. It had announced that the plan had been halted, but that is false; it is still underway.
On May 23, residents of Gheizaniyeh in Khuzestan province protested the cut-off of potable water in the area. In response, members of the State Security Forces (SSF), clad in riot gear and firing tear gas, attacked the demonstrators.
The state-run IRNA news agency reported that the SSF used anti-riot plastic bullets, superficially wounding two demonstrators. Meanwhile, the head of the SSF in Ahvaz declared that the rally was illegal, adding that the SSF had used shotguns and that two protesters had been slightly injured and arrested. (The official IRNA News Agency – May 23, 2020)
Local sources reported that a teenager was wounded after being targeted with plastic bullets.
Gheizaniyeh district is located 45 kilometers from Ahvaz.
There are more than 80 villages and 300 oil wells in this area. Residents have been suffering water shortages for years, yet their repeated demands have not been heeded.
Mohammad Bavi, a member of the Gheizaniyeh District Council, stated, “Since 2011, officials have repeatedly pledged to solve the water problem within three months but have yet to take any action. Besides the water shortage, there are 20 coronavirus patients in the area. People are given health advice to wash their hands frequently. Our people do not have drinking water, let alone water to use for proper hygiene” (The state-run ILNA News Agency – May 26, 2020).