Over 20 people arrested during protests seven years ago against water scarcity and distribution policies in south-west Iran have been sentenced to prison and lashes, the United States-based Human Rights Activists' News Agency (HRANA) said Saturday.
HRANA reported that those sentenced were arrested in Chaharmahal-Bakhtiari province in 2015 during protests against plans to transfer water from their town, and were holding a symbolic mourning ceremony for the drying up of a spring.
After a complaint by Khatam-al Anbiya Construction Headquarters, the engineering and construction arm of the Revolutionary Guard, the protestors were sentenced to up to seven years in prison and 74 lashes on charges of disturbing public order and destroying public property. They denied the charges.
Chaharmahal-Bakhtiari, a traditionally water-rich region in the Zagros mountains, has seen its water resources decline due to both drought and projects to irrigate arid regions. Protests in Chaharmahal-Bakhtiari broke out again last year in response to demonstrations in Esfahan over the drying up of the Zayandeh Roud river, which rises in Chaharmahal-Bakhtiari.
Drought and desertification across the Middle East in recent years has fed tensions between and within states over water. The government’s encouragement of water-intensive industries in Yazd, east of Esfahan, diverting water, has also contributed to farmers in Chaharmahal-Bakhtiari facing shortages.