HRW – On September 8, the governor of Hamedan, Mohammed Ali Mohammadi, announced the arrests of 25 citizens during protests about the ongoing water crisis. Mohammadi claimed that the protests were illegal, and the fact that 20 of the arrested protesters were not from Hamedan city indicated that they were present “to incite terror.”
People in Hamedan province have been experiencing mounting difficulties over several weeks accessing water with long hours of plumbing shutoffs that authorities have set up tanks on streets to help mitigate the recent water shortages. The protests, which began in late August in front of the governor’s office, were led by citizens demonstrating against the severe shortages in drinking water supplies and the officials’ failure to address the crisis. On August 24, a video was circulated of a woman being beaten by security forces at one of the protests.
The Hamedan governor stated that the water transmission line to the area has progressed 40% in the last 17 years and claimed that a resolution will come in the next two weeks. According to the human rights group HRANA, water from the Talwar Dam is supposed to be transferred to help with the immediate response. However, the Hamedan Province Lawyers Association reportedly wrote a recent letter to the prosecutor’s office outlining concerns about the high levels of arsenic in the Talwar Dam water.
In the past year, there has been a spate of water protests across the country against increasing droughts and the government’s mismanagement of water resources, to which the authorities have responded to with arrests and violence. In July, in a protest against the lack of action to protect Lake Urmia, police arrested protestors for “destroying public property” and “disturbing the security of the population.” Last year, it was reported that Iranian authorities used excessive force in quashing water protests in Khuzestan province, which has led to the death of three protestors.
Climate change is expected to exacerbate access to water in Iran. Authorities must move quickly to address the issue and protect their citizens’ right to water, instead of employing violence and arresting citizens.
The UN special rapporteur on the rights to water and sanitation stated in a 2014 report that violations of the right to water may result from action or may be the result of the unintended consequences of policies, programs and other measures as well.