Police on Friday fired tear gas and birdshot while fighting protesters with batons in a central Iranian city that has seen days of demonstrations demanding government action over a drought, online videos show.
The social media videos and others from activists show police and protesters clashing in the dry bed of the Zayandeh Rud river in the city of Isfahan.
The videos correspond to reporting and satellite images of the area, as well as some semiofficial Iranian news agency accounts of the unrest.
Videos from Human Rights Activists in Iran show demonstrators throwing stones at police, while others depict bloodied protesters, including one man who appeared to have wounds in his back from birdshot.
They also show similar unrest in nearby streets in Isfahan, which is 340km south of the capital, Tehran.
The Iranian semiofficial Fars news agency said a heavy presence of security forces brought the gathering of about 500 people in Isfahan to an end.
A separate report carried by the semiofficial Tasnim agency said unknown perpetrators on Thursday night damaged a pipeline that transfers water from Isfahan to other provinces.
Iranian security forces arrested several people in the protests staged by “anti-revolutionary” groups, local police chief Mohammadreza Mirheidari said in an interview on state TV.
Some people in Isfahan later on Friday reported that mobile Internet service was disrupted in the city.
The group NetBlocks reported an outage in the past few days that also affected the southwestern city of Ahvaz amid water protests there.
Iran in the past has shut down both mobile and landline Internet to halt protests. That included a nationwide shutdown during 2019 protests over rising government-set gasoline prices that Amnesty International said resulted in more than 300 people killed.
Farmers reportedly ended a long protest in the area on Thursday after authorities promised to compensate them for losses in drought-stricken areas of central Iran.
Drought has been a problem in Iran for about 30 years, but it has worsened over the past decade, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. The Iran Meteorological Organization says that an estimated 97 percent of the country faces some level of drought.
The farming area around Isfahan was once well-supplied by the Zayandeh Rud, but nearby factories have increasingly drawn on it over the years.
The river once flowed under historic bridges in Isfahan’s city center, but is now a barren strip of dirt.
In 2012, farmers clashed with police in a town in Isfahan Province, breaking a water pipe that diverted some 50 million cubic meters of water a year to a neighboring province. Similar protests have continued sporadically since then.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
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