Iranian Water Shortage Protests: A Critical Juncture for Human Security


    Iranian child drinks from a water tanker in the North Khorasan province; Photo credit to Vahid Khademi; Retrieved via


    Iranian citizens working within the agricultural sector are currently growing more frustrated. This is due to the lack of action by the government to address the decade long drought in the Zayandeh River. The drought, which is artificially created by the government, is caused by a dam that redirects water sources with an aim of suppling industrial areas. However, during the Iranian water shortage protests, participants were not only exclusive to those who are farmers, as more grow frustrated and resentful of the regime, many have mobilised in a show of solidarity against the government. 

    Key Judgement 1:

    It is likely that the water-shortage protests will have a spill-over effect into the rest of the population.

    • The protest in of itself mainly effected only the agricultural sector. However, as illustrated in figure 1, the frequency of protests could create a culture of resistance amongst dissatisfied citizens. This could create an enabling environment that encourages those who are afraid to speak up against the regime to display their dissatisfaction and protest. 

    • Whilst applications such as ‘Telegram’ are prohibited, the U.S Department’s Internet Freedom program succeeded in allowing citizens to bypass firewalls to communicate anonymously. 

    • Therefore, social media can become an incubator for social agency. Due to the ability of dissemination of discontent amongst citizens has become easier and more efficient.

    • The Iranian security forces could become a catalyst for social revolt and resentment. The consecutive clashes have resulted in a consistent increase in those that need to be detained (refer to figure1).

    • This alters the role of the security task force. From protecting civilians to safe-guarding the Iranian regime. Thus, distinguishing them as the common enemy of civilians. (OECD,2007)

    Key Judgement 2:

    It is unlikely that the factors that play a role in the protests will not be resolved.  

    • Recently, most of the major protests were in regard to the economy. However, international state sanctions have impeded the regime’s ability to resolve some of issues behind the recent protests.

    • Subsequent acquisition of arms and increased budget of security forces, indicate a possible use of coercion to suppress and reduce protests than accept the demands of protestors. (Source)

    • Following the economic protests in 2018, the parliament increased the budget for security forces by 400% for weaponry including: heavy weapons, armoured vehicles, water spray for crowd control and expanded intelligence and public police (PAVA). (Saidi, 2018
    • This suggests that an effort for resolve by the Iranian regime are improbable, as coercion was the method that has been invested in.

    Key Judgement 3:

    • Job insecurity partially caused by the lasting effects of COVID-19 which, when also paired with the effects that the devaluation of the Rial (Iranian currency) had caused the economy to shrink. (Source)

    • Militarisation of security forces worsens the rift between citizens and the regime, which also hinders their legitimacy as a regime and as a representative democratic government. 

    • Neglect of addressing grievances by the government and utilising the opportunity to target reformists. (Source)
    Table which illustrates the proliferation of resistance culture within Iranian society
    Figure 1- table which illustrates the growing culture of resistance
    Iranian water shortage protests and riots
    Figure 2 (Source: ACLED)
    Naif Alshaikh
    Naif Alshaikh
    Naif Alshaikh is a current graduate candidate at King’s College London, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in Global Affairs. The major focus across his work, is rooted within geopolitics and the security sector apparatus. His interest in the topics was derived from his time at City, University of London, in which he attained a BSc International politics with Distinction. In his work, he often utilises the nexus between the topics of his interest, to provide a holistic examination of the cases he analyses.

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