BAKU — Iran’s Intelligence Ministry has detained over 30 ethnic Azeris in recent days over environmental protests, RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service reports.
The activists in Tabriz were protesting the Iranian government’s failure to take measures to save Lake Urmia, a salt lake situated between Iran’s East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan provinces that is drying up.
Members of the activists’ families told RFE/RL that over 30 people were detained on August 24 during an iftar evening meal when Muslims observing Ramadan break their fast.
On August 25, several more activists were detained before and after a soccer match in Tabriz between the Azerbaijani Trakhtorsazi team and local team Shahrdari Tabriz. Thousands of Azerbaijani fans chanted “Lake Urmia is dying, the Majlis orders its execution” during the match.
Several more activists were reportedly detained in Ardabil and other cities.
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.