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Conservative Women Join Iran Water Protests

An Iranian girl walks across the Zayandeh Rud river in Isfahan, now dry because of water extraction before it reaches the city, April 11, 2018.

Frustration with water shortages in Iran's third-largest city is growing, with conservative women seen marching for the first time to protest the situation.

A social media video monitored by VOA's Persian service and identified as having been filmed in Isfahan's eastern district of Khorasgan on Friday showed a group of women wearing chadors marching behind male protesters.

A chador is a long garment, often black, that leaves only a woman's face exposed. It is worn by Iranian women who follow the conservative dress code of Iran's ruling Islamist clerics.

Social media users said the chador-wearing women were from farming families in nearby villages who had come to Khorasgan's town center to join their husbands in protesting the lack of water for their farms.

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Iran Water Protest, April 13
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The video begins with male protesters marching on a street, followed by the women, who appear 40 seconds into the clip. The women can be heard chanting: "Our enemy is here, it is not America." Men are also seen riding motorcycles and walking alongside the women but at a distance, apparently to protect the group from any intrusion.

It was the fourth consecutive day of water shortage protests reported by social media users in Isfahan city.

Map showing Isfahan, Iran
Map showing Isfahan, Iran

On Friday, the Iranian government's leader of Friday prayers in Isfahan lost patience with the protesters. State news agency IRNA quoted Ayatollah Yousef Tabatabaye-nejad as saying: "Repeated demonstrations and chants indicate that these people are hostile and seeking to cause riots and sedition."

Tabatabaye-nejad also said he had "always" defended farmers and their rights, but added: "I no longer believe they are right." Some residents angered by what they see as government mismanagement of local water resources turned their backs to the cleric during a prayer sermon last month.

Iranian leaders have accused foreign powers such as the United States of instigating a series of street protests over various grievances across Iran since late December. Washington has said it supports Iranians engaged in peaceful protests against the Iranian government.

Farhad Pouladi of VOA's Persian service contributed to this report.