Iran: Ahwaz residents protest against Karun River diversion

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Thousands of residents of the southern Iranian city of Ahwaz formed a human chain by the bank of the Karun River in Ahwaz, the capital of the Khuzestan Province of Iran, protesting the diversion of its river.

The majority ethnic Arab Ahwaz residents, protesting for the second time in two weeks, spoke out against the Karun River diversion which would run through a series of dams and water canals, connecting Zenda Rud River in Esfahan.

In a move largely seen as one part in a series of initiatives to exert pressure on the Arabs of Ahwaz, the diversion would effectually cut off drinking water for the population of Ahwaz and yield increases in illnesses.

The resulting water scarcity would cripple the local agricultural economy and cause widespread desertification, factors that are behind the systematic and forced migration of the Arabs in Ahwaz.

The 5-km long chain was made up of men and women carrying signs in Arabic, Persian and English that read, “Karun is for Khuzistan,” “I am a farmer, I would not give a drop of water of Karun,” and “We will save Karun.”

Maasouma Ibtikar, director of the Iranian Environmental Protection Agency, spoke out against the diversion after receiving hundreds of comments on her Facebook page asking her to speak out against the environmental massacre. She said she opposed running the vital river dry and depriving the residents from drinking water.

Sharif al-Husseini, parliament member and Ahwaz representative visited the demonstrators on site, and announced his support to their movement.

He said he had spoken to Iranian President Hasan Rouhani in parliament sessions and privately and had asked for his intervention to forbid the diversion.

Ahmad Shaheed, special rapporteur on human rights in Iran confirmed that the Ahwaz region is subject to environmental disasters as a result of neglecting the rivers which consequently run dry, causing a lack of drinking water and widespread desertification in addition to the pollution cause by nearby oil companies and petrochemical plants.

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