By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — The United States has expressed deep concern after security forces in Iran cracked down on demonstrators protesting crippling water shortages.
Security forces on November 26 fired tear gas at stone-throwing demonstrators as some 500 people gathered on the desiccated bed of the Zayandehrud River, which runs through the city of Isfahan.
Hassan Karami, an Iranian police general, said on November 27 that police had arrested 67 of “the main actors and agitators” from the protest. Karami added that between 2,000 and 3,000 “rioters” had taken part in the November 26 demonstration in Isfahan, some 400 kilometers south of the Iranian capital, Tehran.
“Deeply concerned about the violent crackdown against peaceful protestors,” State Department spokesman Ned Price tweeted. “The people of Iran have a right to voice their frustrations and hold their government accountable.”
The riverbed has seen protests against the water shortages since November 9, as farmers and others have gathered there from across the region.
Although the region is experiencing a severe drought, many people blame the authorities for diverting water to neighboring Yazd Province, which has also been affected.
The largest protest, involving thousands of demonstrators, was on November 19.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni has said the water crisis is a top priority for the government.