DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Police fired tear gas and birdshot while fighting protesters with batons on Friday in a central Iranian city that has seen days of demonstrations demanding government action over a drought, online videos show.
The social media videos and others from activists show police and protesters clashing in the dry bed of the Zayandehrud River in the city of Isfahan. The videos correspond to reporting by The Associated Press and satellite images of the area, as well as some semiofficial Iranian news agency accounts of the unrest.
Videos from Human Rights Activists in Iran show demonstrators throwing stones at police, while others depict bloodied protesters, including one man who appeared to have wounds in his back from birdshot. They also show similar unrest in nearby streets in Isfahan, which is 340 kilometers (210 miles) south of the capital Tehran.
The Iranian semiofficial Fars news agency said a heavy presence of security forces brought the gathering of some 500 people in Isfahan to an end. A separate report carried by the semiofficial Tasnim agency said unknown perpetrators had damaged a pipeline that transfers water from Isfahan to other provinces Thursday night.
Some people in Isfahan later Friday reported that mobile internet service was disrupted in the city. The group NetBlocks reported an outage in recent days that also affected the southwestern city of Ahvaz amid water protests there.
Iran in the past has shut down both mobile and landline internet to halt protests. That included a nationwide shutdown during 2019 protests over rising government-set gasoline prices that Amnesty International says saw over 300 people killed.
Farmers reportedly ended a long protest in the area on Thursday after authorities promised to compensate them for losses suffered in drought-stricken areas of central Iran.
Drought has been a problem in Iran for some 30 years, but it has worsened over the past decade, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization. The Iran Meteorological Organization says that an estimated 97% of the country now faces some level of drought.
The farming area around Isfahan was once well supplied by the Zayandehrud River, but nearby factories have increasingly drawn on it over the years. The river once flowed under historic bridges in Isfahan’s city center, but is now a barren strip of dirt.
In 2012, farmers clashed with police in a town in Isfahan province, breaking a water pipe that diverted some 50 million cubic meters of water a year to a neighboring province. Similar protests have continued sporadically since then.