Drought sparks farmer protests in Iran
Farmers in central Iran have over the past weeks been turning to protests to push authorities to find a solution to the severe drought that is plaguing the county and causing once-fertile fields to turn to dust. Every day, farmers in Varzaneh, Isfahan province, have been holding a protest vigil at the town entrance, parking their long-idle tractors next to the now-dry canal that once irrigated their fields. Earlier this month, protests in the town of Abadan, Khuzestan province, were violently put down by security forces, who used tear-gas and bullets, leaving 11 demonstrators dead. The drought currently affects over 95% of Iran, and is the worst in decades. But protesters charge the problems have been exacerbated by long mismanagement and corruption. Many people have become sick due to lack of clean drinking water and it is feared that if the crisis is not resolved, many will die.
The water protests are part of a wider uprising in Iran, which began in December over the release of a draft budget that cut subsidies for the poor in favor of increased military spending. Since the protests began, at least 50 demonstrators have been shot dead in the streets, over 8,000 arrested and threatened with the death penalty, and 14 apparently tortured to death in prison. (Iran News Update)