The Latest from Iran (28 August) It’s the Ecology, Stupid

The Latest from Iran (28 August) It’s the Ecology, Stupid


Posted 28 August 2011, by James Miller, EA WorldView (Enduring America),



An overview of the ecological problems facing Lake Orumiyeh in northwest Iran

1420 GMT:The US Hikers. The lawyer for US citizens Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, sentenced earlier this month to eight-year prison sentences on charges of espionage and illegal entry has said that he has filed an appeal.

Fattal and Bauer were arrested, along with American Sarah Shourd, who in July 2009 while hiking along the Iran-Iraq border. They had 20 days to appeal the sentence.

Shourd was freed on $500,000 last September and did not return for trial.

1400 GMT: Environment Watch. Twenty-two Iranian lawmakers have called on the Presiding Board of Parliament to take “expert and immediate” action to counter the rapid shrinkage of Lake Orumiyeh in Western Azerbaijan Province in northwest Iran.

The MPs warn that allowing the lake to dry out completely would have social, political, and economic consequences.

Last week, Parliament voted down a plan to raise water levels in Lake Orumiyeh by transferring water from the Aras and Siloueh Rivers. The lake, the largest in Iran, has receded significantly in recent years — Hassan Abbasnejad, the head of environmental protection in Western Azerbaijan, reported that 53% of the lake has already turned into salt fields, and the salt content of the lake has reached 400 grams per litre.

1235 GMT: Claimed video of latest protests and clashes in northwest Iran over the Lake Orumiyeh issue:

1230 GMT: Strikes and Protests. Kalemeh reports on the strike of cloth merchants at the Tehran Bazaar, which it claims has spread to other vendors, and the suppression of an attempted rally on Saturday by security forces.

The news intersects with the reports from northwest Iran of demonstrations over the environmental damage to drying Lake Orumiyeh, in which more than 30 activists have been arrested.

1220 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Human rights activist Mostava Avazpour has been arrested in Tabriz. He was seized as he was among 30 guests during an iftar dinner.

The arrest comes amidst news of the release from prison of more than 100 activists, including some jailed for protests following the 2009 Presidential election, after an amnesty by the Supreme Leader

Kalemeh puts the amnesty in perspective with the claim that more than 200 political prisoners, including 120 seized after June 2009, were still being held in Section 350 of Evin Prison in Tehran.

1210 GMT: Justice Watch. State news agency IRNA is reporting that Majid Jamali Fashi has been sentenced to death for the murder of physicist Masoud Alimohammadi in January 2010.

Iran Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei made the announcement. Jamali Fashi was accused of working with Israel to assassinate Alimohammadi, who reportedly worked with Iran’s nuclear programme.

1205 GMT: The Quds Day “Success”. Video with a man who is not quite sure why he participated in the regime’s Quds Day rally on Friday. He gets his lines wrong — instead of saying that he took part because of “hate and anger against Israel”, he says he is marching “against unity”.

1115 GMT: The Battle Within. Fars publishes a sharp warning from Mohsen Fouladi, the coordinator of the three branches of Government —he claims a huge sedition will start in the media in the middle of the Iranian month of Mehr (September/October). Fouladi added that, if the Supreme Leader orders it, swords will be drawn against the President’s right-hand man Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai.

1105 GMT: Fashion and Politics. The “battle within” over the “Khatoon” special on hijab, published earlier this month in the pro-Ahmadinejad daily newspaper Iran rumbles on — a complaint against the editor of the paper has been filed in court.

Critics of the special allege it argued against the compulsory wearing of hijab by women.

1050 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Amir Khorram, a senior member of the Freedom Movement of Iran, has been summoned to Evin Prison to serve a six-year sentence.

1045 GMT: Agriculture Watch. Khabar Online claims that the import of $227 million in fruit in the past four months has “ruined” domestic farmers.

1035 GMT: Parliament v. President. Parliament’s Article 90 Commission has warned the Government about its refusal to pay $2 billion allocated for the extension of the Tehran Metro system, summoning nine officials to appear.

The money has been held up by the Ahmadinejad administration since its authorisation by the Majlis last year. Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf is widely seen as a leading rival of Ahmadinejad and his allies.

1030 GMT:Mardomak posts the video of the Supreme Leader warning that the “enemy” is trying to remove religion from Iranian universities.

1025 GMT: The House Arrests. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran claims, from a source “close to Iranian officials”, that opposition figure Mehdi Karroubi — under strict house arrest since mid-February — is “surrounded by a team of psychiatrists working with his captors to force his mental state into agreeing to appear in front of cameras and make televised ‘confessions’”.

No one has heard from Karroubi for six weeks. This weekend his wife Fatemeh, also under house arrest, said her husband had been moved to a separate apartment on 1 August and deprived of fresh air, books, and contact with others.

Last week an Iranian MP said a statement of “repentance” from Karroubi would be published “within hours”. It never appeared.

0545 GMT: Updates will be sporadic today, as Scott is on the road and James would rather have his computer unplugged than risk a power spike during a hurricane (he’ll be fine, very wet, but fine). But, as luck would have it, Scott and I leave the liveblog alone for a few hours, and there are riots in the streets.

Water wars – Major protests broke out on Saturday over the ecological crisis at Orumiyeh lake, a 5200 square km body of water in northwest Iran, that is drying up. Environmental activists blame bad government policy, including the damming of rivers that feed into the lake, lack of preservation, and poor water usage policies, combined with drought, for the problems facing the lake. As Orumiyeh dries, the people and animals living in the area of the lake will face serious consequences.

On Saturday, major protests took place against the government policies that many believe are leading to this crisis,despite the Friday Prayer leader of Orumiyeh calling the protests to be illegal.

Many activists have been arrested by the Iranian Intelligence Ministry in recent days. 30 people were arrested on August 24th, more people were arrested before and after a soccer match in Tabriz on the 25th, and even more people were arrested in Ardabil and other cities. Protesters at the soccer match chanted “Lake Urmia is dying, the Majlis orders its execution.”

Iran’s parliament recently voted against allocating funds to channel water from the Araz River to raise the level of the lake. Instead, they proposed relocating Azerbaijanis living around Lake Urmia.

Turan Kheyri, the wife of detained activist Mustafa Avazpur, told RFE/RL that he has been detained twice before for demanding the protection of Azeri rights. She says Avazpur was released from jail last year.

Asgar Sadiqi, the brother of detained activist Abdullah Sadiqi said Abdullah telephoned them to say he was being held at an Intelligence Ministry facility in Tabriz. He said the ministry did not inform the family why Abdullah was arrested.

Vahid Qaradagli, an Azeri human rights activist in Iran, told RFE/RL on August that Azeri activists are enraged at the Iranian government’s failure to take measures to prevent Lake Urmia from drying up.

“The activists were planning more protests on August 27, and the government is arresting activists to avert the wave of protests,” he said.

Qaradagli says the government has built a fence around the lake, but no steps have been taken to preserve it. He says if the lake dries up, some 10 million tons of salt will remain which will damage the environment and may cause illness among people living in the vicinity.

Events came to a breaking point on Saturday. Below is some footage, including what I can only assume is a great overview of the situation by BBC Persian:

Heavy security presence in the area:

The protests:

Protesters approaching what appears to be a wall of riot police:

Violence erupts:


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