Protests in the Iranian city of Isfahan over the drying up of a river turned violent, as riot police arrested 67 people on Saturday.
Police General Hassan Karami told reporters, “We have arrested 67 of the main actors and agitators behind the troubles,” adding that there were about 2,000 to 3,000 “rioters” in the protests.
Demonstrations have been taking place from November 9 in Isfahan, some 340 kilometres to the south of Tehran. Farmers and others have been rallying on the river bed of the Zayandeh Rood river, as they have been protesting water shortages.
Ongoing water crisis
Iran has blamed the drought situation for water shortages, but critics say it is also due to mismanagement. Protesters say authorities have diverted water from the city to supply the neighboring province of Yazd.
State media reported unspecified numbers of both demonstrators and riot police had been injured, as both sides clashed. Fars news agency said farmers and local authorities had struck a deal on Thursday about water distribution.
President Ebrahim Raisi met with representatives from the provinces of Isfahan, Yazd and Semnan, and made assurances to resolve the issue.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Twitter that Washington was “deeply concerned about the violent crackdown against peaceful protestors.”
Civilians reported a disruption of mobile internet services in areas where protests were taking place, which was confirmed by the watchdog Netblocks.
Protests have been almost a daily occurrence in the drought-hit region in the past few days. An Iranian news agency said two bulldozers were used to destroy a pipe taking water from Isfahan province to Yazd.
Droughts have been taking place in Iran for 30 years, but the frequency has increased recently. The Iran Meteorological Organization says that an estimated 97% of the country now faces some level of drought.