Farmers protesting in Esfahan for water say that after midnight on Thursday security agents attacked their camp, set fire to their tents and bulldozed the scene.
Protesters, many of whom have refused to leave their tents for over two weeks, said on social media the attack occurred at 3:00 AM while many other farmers and their supporters were gone. According to these reports, security forces then broke the metal frame of the tents anddrove a loader over the site to remove the remains. During the attack, protesters say, security forces shot blanks and tear gasto disperse them.
One of the protesters posted a video report that has been widely circulated on social media and shows a large groups of riot police advancing towards the camp in the dry bed of Zayandeh Roud river. The citizen-journalist speaking in the video says protesters have been ordered to leave and alleges that security forces set fire to the protesters' tents. "We only came here for water," he says.
In the video, a member of security forces is heard speaking into a loudspeaker who repeatedly asks protesters to evacuate the site "now that there are good agreements reached [regarding the water problem] and all [authorities] have offered you support".
State-run broadcaster (IRIB), however, in a report Thursday morning alleged that "opportunists" some of whom were arrested by security forces were responsible for burning the tents. The report claimed that the "opportunists" had prevented farmers from dismantling their tents after a statement issued by the farmers union which announced the end of their protest.
"They set fire to our tents," a protester says in a second video that shows smoke rising from burning tents in a distance. "They are Kuffar… they stole our water, now these [security forces] have come to their aid".
A protester is heard in the video comparing the security forces to Shimr, the villain in the Battle of Karbala between the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, Imam Husayn, and Yazid I in 680 AD. The Imam, his men, and his family were killed in the battle near the river Euphrates from which they were not allowed to get water and their tents were set on fire. The story of Karbala is an important foundation for the Shiites who mark the occasion every year as a great injustice toward ‘true’ Muslims.
"What are they going to do about Friday," he says.
Farmers have invited residents of Esfahan to join them in the dry riverbed on Friday where thousands of ordinary citizens joined their protest last Friday.
Authorities who blame this year's drought for the exacerbation of water shortage have kept promising to take action to resolve the long-standing shortage and to compensate farmers who have not been able to sow autumn crops.
Promises of water for Esfahan have fueled protests in Shahr-e Kord, the capital of the neighboring Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiari Province, where people have been also protesting the mismanagement of water in the past four days.
The recent water protests took place as many Iranians marked the second anniversary of the bloody November 2019 unrest. In 2019 protests that quickly spread across the country were heavy-handedly suppressed by the security forces who killed hundreds of unarmed people. After two years, no one has been accountable, and the protesters have been accused of serving foreign interests and destroying property.