On 31 January Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that access to the Helmand River’s water is a right that Afghanistan’s new rulers must provide for Iran.
In response to a question posed by The Cradle’s correspondent, Khatibzadeh said: “The governing body of Afghanistan has said that it has opened the Kamal Khan Dam, but the water has not reached the borders of Iran. It is not important for us if they have opened the dam. It is important to receive the water right.”
He then went on to add that Taliban officials must remove all obstacles and that access to the Helmand River’s water is an important criterion for which they are responsible, and must adhere to bilateral agreements and international treaties.
Khatibzadeh was referring to the 1974 Iran-Afghanistan Water Rights Agreement, under which Iran must receive 820 million cubic meters of water from the Helmand River.
“The foreign ministry has used all the means in its power to secure the water rights,” he reiterated.
In recent days, local farmers from Iran’s southeastern Sistan and Baluchestan province have mobilized to demand that Afghanistan release the flow of water.
The protesters gathered outside the Afghanistan consulate general in the city of Milak on 28 January for a demonstration which turned violent when some farmers damaged trucks stationed at the border crossing, which forced the involvement of Iranian border guards.
Local sources said that some of the farmers attacked three Afghan trucks and broke their windows.
Meanwhile, on 29 January Afghan social media reports claimed that Afghanis rallied in support of not opening the Kamal Khan Dam gates.
Earlier in the month Iran’s deputy ambassador in Kabul announced that the Taliban administration had opened two gates of the Kamal Khan Dam, and that the water would reach Iran in 48 to 72 hours.
The governor of Sistan and Baluchestan, Hossein Modarres Khiabani, also said that the gates of the dam had opened towards the Iranian border.
“The flow of water from this dam will continue until the Iranian water supply from Helmand is fully supplied,” he noted.
However, on 19 January, Akhtar Mohammad, a spokesman for the Taliban ministry of energy and water, told media that the Taliban had actually opened the gates of Kamal Khan Dam at the request of local Afghan farmers.