Press Release – Jan 11, 2024 Association for the Defense of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran (ADAP) regarding environmental protesters arrested in Qara Qeshlaq village

Release Detained Environmental Protesters in Qara Qishlaq Village

Immediate Action Required: Release Detained Environmental Protesters in Qara Qishlaq Village
Iranian police’s brutal dispersal of a peaceful environmental protest in Qara Qishlaq village on January 9, 2024, demands urgent attention. Social media footage reveals the use of tear gas and batons by the police to disperse protesters. Numerous protesters were injured, hospitalized, and arrested. The following morning, agents from Iran’s intelligence service conducted house raids in Qara Qishlaq village, resulting in the arrest of 70 people, mainly elderly villagers and women. ADAPP has verified 22 names among the detainees, listed below.
Susanbar Alipour, Somayyeh Alipour, Elnaz Alipour, Saideh Ahmadi, Latifeh Molayi, Robab Alipour, Susan Ghaffari, Rahim Talebi(85 years old), Gholam Hagigat(80 years old), Moharram Hagigat(70 years old), Qanbar Amani(70 years old), Safar Raie(60 years old), Hedayat Amjadi(60 years old), Gholam Maleki(50 years old), Hashem Rezayi, Yousef Motallebi, Tohid Maleki, Mehdi Maleki, Mortaza Tayyari, Tohid Akbari and his mom(70 years old), and Ahmad Parsa.
Members of the Qara Qishlaq village community informed ADAPP that the head of Iran’s intelligence service office in the city of Salmas threatened them with sexual violence against detained women if the villagers persist in their environmental protest.
The protest originated when Kaveh Soda LTC, linked to the IRGC, decided to establish a 450-acre plant in the lands of Qara Qishlaq village. The plant’s purpose is to produce sodium carbonate, essential for glass manufacturing.
Residents expressed concerns that Kaveh Soda’s plan involves constructing deep wells, using water from them for manufacturing, raising worries about water scarcity in the community. Further research on Kave Soda’s similar plant in Maragheh revealed alarming environmental pollution. Following a community meeting, Qara Qishlaq villagers decided to oppose the proposal.
Initially, Kaveh Soda LTC opened its first plant in the city of Maragheh, East Azerbaijan province, in 2004. Since the Maragheh plant’s establishment, Kaveh Soda LTC has leveraged its connections with the IRGC, Iran’s security forces, and corrupt officials and MPs to bypass environmental and labor laws. The operational Maragheh plant resulted in the contamination of underground and surface waters within a 150 km radius, causing livestocks deaths. Wastewater from the plant infiltrated orchards, rendering the soil infertile for kilometers and contributing to a high incidence of liver and pancreas cancers in Maragheh.

Moreover, Kaveh Soda discharges toxic wastewater into Sufi Chay (Soyu Chayi), eventually reaching Lake Urmia and exacerbating the ongoing environmental disaster caused by the Iranian government’s drying of the lake. Despite warnings from Environmental NGOs and the Ministry of Environment, Kaveh Soda Ltd ignores environmental codes. The company is excavating salt crystals from the dried surface of Lake Urmia as a base material for sodium carbonate production. These excavations create local salt storms in the northwest of Iran, worsening the environmental catastrophe resulting from the Iranian government’s decision to dry the lake.
A few months ago, Ebrahim Asgarian, the CEO of Kaveh Soda, utilized connections to have a one-on-one meeting with Iran’s President Raisi, receiving approval from the administration to continue its polluting and unlawful manufacturing practices.
Association for the Defense of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran(ADAPP) urgently calls for the immediate release of individuals detained during a peaceful environmental protest and demands a comprehensive investigation into the disturbing rape threats made by the head of the Ministry of Intelligence’s Salmas office.
Highlighting the paramount importance of public well-being, ADAPP firmly insists that any developmental initiatives must prioritize public opinion and adhere strictly to environmental codes. Addressing the concerning pollution caused by Kaveh Soda’s manufacturing, ADAPP holds the Iranian government accountable for its negligence of environmental regulations, urging an abrupt halt to all activities in Maragheh, Salmas, and other affected Azerbaijani provinces.
ADAPP emphasizes the need for Iran to abandon exploitative policies in regions with diverse ethnic populations, putting an end to resource exploitation and environmental degradation. The organization appeals to the United Nations, international human rights entities, and environmental groups to actively monitor Iran’s practices and prevent harm to local communities. Iran’s actions, including resource exploitation and its contribution to environmental disasters like Lake Urmia, pose a direct threat to the well-being and cultural identity of affected communities.

Yashar Hakak pour maraghi
Director of Association for the Defense of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran(ADAPP)
[email protected]

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