Kazeroon’s representative to parliament has defended the plan to divide the ancient city, and accused the local Friday Prayer leader of “provoking people to rebellion.” MP Hossein Rezazadeh said, “The source of the recent protests in Kazeroon is where Friday Prayer is held.” He added that, “The plan to divide Kazeroon has been on the table for 25 years. The city’s former MPs repeatedly promised to implement the plan but never fulfilled it.”
While Rezazadeh claims that the plan was first proposed by the governor-general office of Fars Province, a local news outlet had previously reported, “A motion tabled by Rezazadeh will split Kazeroon into two counties,” giving prominence and executive power to “Rezazadeh’s birthplace, Qa’emeyyeh,” as the center of one of them. The publication accused the MP of having “personal motives in supporting the motion.”
“I am after what the people of the district [Qa’emeyyeh] have demanded and, whether some like it or not, I will follow up on the case,” a local website quoted Rezazadeh as saying.
For nearly a year, thousands of people in Kazeroon have been protesting against the planned split, which they say would unfairly divide already scarce water resources. They also believed that the proposal would place the city’s two main historic sites, including the ancient city of Bishapur founded 226 AD, inside the boundaries of the new city.
However, this is not the case, according to Rezazadeh, who said that the people have been misled by the prayer leaders. “Though they knew that Bishapur was not added to the boundaries of the new proposed city, they said otherwise to provoke people.” He also accused an unnamed Tehran-based official from the Interior Ministry of sending messages to the city’s residents, telling them to pour into the streets and make international headlines.
Kazeroon’s Friday Prayer leader, Mohammad Khorsand, a de facto representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Kazeroon, fiercely opposes any changes to the boundaries of the city.
The disputed proposal has been shelved for the time being, Iran’s Interior Ministry announced May 17. “The proposal to divide the ancient city of Kazeroon into two separate entities has been shelved for the time being.The plan would be taken under consideration by experts and the people’s concerns would be taken into account in order to eliminate the plan’s deficiencies.”
Many of the protesters are suspicious of the statement, worrying that is is merely a tactic used to defuse the tension in Kazeroon.
On May 19th, state-run Iran Students News Agency (ISNA) quoted Fars Province Chief Justice Ali Alghasi as saying two people had been killed during clashes between security forces and protesters, but locals on social media and those who have risked speaking to the media outside Iran, put the casualty toll much higher.
The ancient city was the scene of sporadic clashes on May 18th. Officials claim that protesters burned a bank building and damaged public property and police vehicles.
“The protesters had earlier attacked security forces and burned two police vehicles on Thursday,” the government’s official news agency, IRNA, reported.
Images and footage shared on social media depicted police and Baseej paramilitary forces in Kazeroon, however, now the city’s Internet has been disconnected.