Thousands of Iranians protest dried-up river in Isfahan

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Thousands of protesters converged on Isfahan in central Iran on Friday to voice their anger after the city’s lifeblood river dried up due to drought and diversion, state television said.

The protest that drew in farmers and other people from across Isfahan province was the biggest since demonstrations over the water crisis started on November 9.

“Thousands of people from Isfahan, farmers from the east and west of the province, have gathered in the dry Zayandeh Rood riverbed with one key demand: let the river run,” a state television journalist in Isfahan reported, broadcasting live images of Friday’s rally.

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“For years, there has been no will to resolve the problems of this important river,” the journalist said.

The city of Isfahan is Iran’s third largest, with a population of around two million.

It is tourist magnet due to its heritage sites, including a historic bridge that crosses the Zayandeh Rood river – which has been dry since the year 2000 apart from brief periods.

Drought is seen as one of the causes but farmers also blame the authorities’ diversion of the river water to neighboring Yazd province.

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi met with representatives from the provinces of Isfahan, Yazd and Semnan on November 11 and promised to resolve water issues.

Largely arid Iran has been suffering chronic dry spells for years.

In July, deadly protests broke out in the southwestern province of Khuzestan after drought led to widespread water shortages.

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