Iranian greens fear disaster as Lake Orumieh shrinks

Saeed Kamali Dehghan

The fate of a shrinking salt lake is the last thing you would expect football fans to chant about - but Iranians are doing all they can to stop a looming ecological disaster.

Lake Orumieh in north-west Iran, one of the world’s largest salt lakes and a Unesco biosphere reserve, is disappearing due to drought and government mismanagement, and has become a major cause of concern for environmental activists and ordinary people in the Islamic republic.

Thousands of Iranians from Tabriz and Orumieh, two cities in Iran`s Azerbaijan region, have come out on streets over the past few weeks in protest at the government`s failure to protect the lake, which has already lost half of its surface in recent years. Lake Orumieh is situated at the heart of the region, home to the country`s Azeri ethnic minority, whose activists claim they have been marginalised in recent years.

On Saturday security forces on motorcycles in Tabriz and Orumieh clashed with thousands of protesters who gathered in scattered groups raising alarms over the lake`s disappearance. Experts have said the salt lake, crucial to agriculture and tourism, could dry out completely in the next few years.

Amateur videos posted on YouTube and social networking websites, believed to have been taken from Saturday`s events, show riot police attacking what appears to be a peaceful protest.

Opposition websites said riot forces wielded batons and used teargas and plastic bullets to disperse protesters who were chanting 'Lake Orumieh is thirsty'. Scores of protesters, including several environmental activists, have been arrested. The committee of human rights reporters in Iran reported on Monday that Farank Farid, a prominent women`s rights activist, was among the protesters currently held in custody.

A website affiliated to South Azerbaijan`s student movement claimed that protesters were injured in clashes with security forces. The association for defence of Azerbaijani political prisoners in Iran reported that eyewitnesses said at least one person was killed.

‘According to the eyewitnesses, a protester was killed by the Iranian riot police in Tarbiat Street of the city of Tabriz. The body was immediately removed by the security forces, ’ADAPP said. The association reported protesters were chanting 'Lake Orumieh is dying! Iran is issuing its execution', 'Long live Azerbaijan.’

Protesters blame the gradual drying of the salt lake on the government and its policies of damming rivers, but officials say drought and global warming has caused the disaster…

Unable to stage street protests freely, Iranians have exploited every opportunity to voice alarm over the lake`s fate. Football fans have chanted slogans in relation to the salt lake in stadiums since April. Activists are planning to stage another protest on Friday during a football match in Tehran`s Azadi stadium, which holds up to 100،000 people.

Recent unrest in the Azarbaijan region saw familiar scenes to those witnessed in the aftermath of Iran`s post-election protest in 2009.

فعالان محيط زيست ايراني با کوچک شدن درياچه اروميه در هراس از فاجعه زيست محيطي هستند 5سپتامبر

سرنوشت درياچه رو به نابودي، درياچه نمک آخرين چيزي است که انتظار مي‌رود تماشاچيان فوتبال در مورد آن شعار سر بدهند، اما ايرانيها تمام تلاش خود را مي‌کنند که اين دورنماي فاجعه زيست محيطي را متوقف کنند.

هزاران تن از شهروندان تبريز و اروميه، دو شهر منطقه آذربايجان، در چند هفته گذشته در اعتراض به ناکامي‌دولت در حفاظت از درياچه که تا همين لحظه نيمي از سطح آن از دست رفته، به خيابانها ريختند. …

شماري از تظاهرکنندگان، شامل فعالان محيط زيست دستگير شده‌اند.

کميته گزارشگران حقوق‌بشر در ايران روز دوشنبه گزارش کرد که فرانک فريد (farank farid)، يک فعال برجسته حقوق‌بشر در ميان تظاهرکنندگاني بود که اخيراً بازداشت شد.

يک وب سايت وابسته به جنبش دانشجوي آذربايجان جنوبي ادعا کرد که تظاهر‌کنندگان در درگيريها با نيروهاي امنيتي زخمي‌شدند.

انجمن دفاع از زندانيان سياسي آذربايجان در ايران گزارش کرد که شاهدان گفته‌اند حداقل يک نفر کشته شده است.

اداپ (adapp) [انجمن دفاع از زندانيان سياسي آذربايجان] گفت، “به گفته شاهدان عيني، يک تظاهرکننده توسط پليس ضدشورش ايران در خيابان تربيت تبريز به قتل رسيده و جسد وي سريعاً از محل جابه‌جا گرديده است. انجمن مزبور گزارش کرد که تظاهر‌کنندگان شعار مي‌دادند، “درياچه اروميه دارد ميمرد! ايران حکم اعدام صادر مي‌کند“، “زنده باد آذربايجان“.

تماشاچيان فوتبال از ماه آوريل به شعارهايي در ارتباط با درياچه نمک سر مي‌داده‌اند. فعالان در نظر دارند که روز جمعه طي مسابقه فوتبال در استاديوم آزادي که 100000نفر (صد هزار) ظرفيت دارد، تظاهرات ديگري را تدارک ببينند. (سايت گاردين- 14/6/1390)


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