Iran: Drying of Lake Urmia Sparks Large Protest

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Farzin Farzad

Apr 6, 2010, 1:57:09 PM4/6/10
to CNN IReport:

iReport —

Drying of Lake Urmia Sparks Large Protest

April 05, 2010

On Friday April 2, 2010, security agents attacked Azari environmental activists who gathered at Lake Urmia to demonstrate against the drying of the lake [caused by neglect from authorities]. The agents also violently arrested the family members of some environmentalists. [In the video, anti-riot forces attack people with stones around Lake Urmia. People respond by throwing stones back at the agents]



According to reports, security agents set up an inspection station by a bridge 50 kilometers from the lake to stop people from going [to the gathering]. Also, passengers in buses who had planned to visit the lake from the town of Ilkhchi and the city of Salmas were arrested.

According to reports, more than a hundred Azari citizens were arrested. Some names are: Yavar Jamali, Morteza Avazpour, Mohammad Tajdehi, Mansour Seyfi, Arsalan Zare’ee, Hamid Valayee, Ahmad Valayee, Hossein Nasiri, Askar Sadoghi, Mohammad Tabrizi, Ali Baghbani, Yaghub Ramezani, Mohammad Mohammadlo, Azizkhan Sadeghzadeh, and Sadighi. The names of others arrested are not known.

Azari social activists had invited people to gather at the lake on the 13th day of the month Farvardin, known as Sizdeh Bedar or Nature Day.  Security agents sprayed tear gas at the people who had managed to gather [and hurled stones at them].  They also physically attacked families who wanted to visit the lake for the day and prevented them from crossing the bridge.  Cars that tried to access the lake from a different route were issued tickets by the police.

Approximately ten thousand people gathered to demonstrate. In a symbolic move, people brought along water and poured it in the lake to show their objection to the regime’s policies that have caused the lake to begin drying up.  People also carried protest signs in the Azari language. [In the video, demonstrators first chant, "Dishonest" [referring to the regime]. Then they chant, “Long live Azerbaijan and may all those who do not recognize our nation become blind.”  Next, they chant, “[access to] Azari language schools is our sure right.”]

Experts believe that with a small investment, the government can solve the problem and prevent the lake from drying. However, the regime has many conflicts with the different ethnicities in Iran and has intentionally attempted to destroy the environments of specific areas in the country.

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