Massive protests have erupted in Kurdish-Azeri city of Orumieh, north-west Iran

Sharif Behruz for Medya News – August 28, 2011 – In protest to diversion of many rivers that feed one of the largest salty lake in the world, Lake Orumieh in north western Iran residents of the city of Orumieh poured to the streets (see video) of the city despite the heavy presence of security and anti-riot forces on Saturday afternoon. According to Iranian Kurdistan’s official news agency, Kurdistan Press Agency, Kurdpa, Saturday afternoon’s protesters reached seven thousands in the streets of Orumieh.

In a telephone conversation with one of the protesters Kurdpa confirmed that the security and anti-riot forces have prepared caged vehicles to house arrested protesters and are stationed on the streets. The security forces have cracked down on peaceful protesters and used tear gas to disperse them resulting in the injury of many protesters. According to reports, the protests have been quite widespread mainly gathering in “Constitutional Home” district and surrounding streets. According to HRANA, 30 protesters were detained in today’s protests and the city is under heavy security presence and mobile and Internet connections have been down. HRANA correspondents report that Iranian security forces have stormed the Motahari Hospital to arrest those injured during street clashes. This latest protest in the city of Orumieh started following a rejection of proposed legislation by the Iranian parliament that would transfer urgent waters into the Lake Orumieh to save a great lake from disappearing due to damming and development.

The long popular lake, home to migrating flamingos, pelicans and gulls, has shrunken by 60 percent and could disappear entirely in just a few years, a Washington Post report in May confirmed; experts say drained by drought, misguided irrigation policies, development and the damming of rivers that feed it. The Washington Post report echoed the people of the region’s worry: In the green and beautiful city of Orumieh, famous for peaceful coexistence between Azeri people, Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians as well as Muslims and Christians, talk about the fate of the lake is common among ordinary people in teahouses and on the streets. Drying of Lake Orumieh also sparked large protest on Friday April 2, 2010, security agents attacked environmental activists who gathered at Lake Orumieh to demonstrate against the drying of the lake caused by neglect from authorities.