Iranian security forces descended on demonstrations against the drying of Lake Oroumiyeh in Tabriz and Oroumiyeh in northwestern Iran on Saturday, making numerous arrests.

News outlets linked to ethnic and human rights activists as well as eyewitness reports indicate that security forces were on alert in various Azerbaijan cities in Iran and confronted the crowds with tear gas and batons.

According to HRANA (the Human Rights Activists News Agency), dozens of people were arrested. Some reports indicate that police used plastic bullets, which led to several injuries among protesters.

The Fars semi-official news agency confirmed the unrest but wrote that the demonstrators were rallied by “ethnic” groups, adding that the demonstrators numbered only about 50 people.

The Islamic Republic does not let independent and international media cover social and political protests; therefore, it is not possible to confirm details of the published reports.

Protesters maintain that government policies and mismanagement at the local level are the main causes of the rapid decline in the water levels of Lake Oroumiyeh.

Parliament recently voted down a plan to redirect water from the Aras River to Lake Oroumiyeh, which has led to a new wave of protests by environmental and Azerbaijani activists.