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Roads Blocked In Protest Against New Serbian Laws Decried By Environmentalists
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Demonstrators blocked roads and bridges across Serbia on November 27 to protest against new laws they contend favor business.

Police were out in force, especially in the capital Belgrade, where protesters, blowing whistles and chanting “We won’t give up Serbia,” managed to block traffic at several locations.

Huge columns of cars and other vehicles formed at several locations as the demonstrators allowed only emergency services to pass.

Similar actions were organized in several other cities across Serbia, including Novi Sad, Zrenjanin, Sabac, and Kragujevac.

Several demonstrators were arrested during the protests in Novi Sad and Zrenjanin in northern Serbia.

Environmental groups and civil society organizations object to the authorities' recent moves to lower the referendum threshold and allow for the swift expropriation of private property if it's deemed to be in the public interest.

Activists argue this will pave the way for foreign companies to circumvent popular discontent over projects such as the bid by the Rio Tinto company to launch a lithium mine in western Serbia.

Serbia’s authorities have rejected the accusations, saying the new laws are needed because of infrastructure projects. President Aleksandar Vucic said a referendum will be organized on the Rio Tinto mine.

Experts have warned that the planned lithium mine in western Serbia would destroy farmland and pollute the waters.

Rio Tinto has said that it will respect all Serbian laws and denied its project could endanger the environment.

Following decades of neglect, Serbia has faced major environmental problems such as air and water pollution, poor waste management and other issues.

With reporting by AP
Security forces in Isfahan clashed on November 26 with demonstrators who had gathered on the dried-up bed of the Zayandehrud River to protest crippling water shortages.

The United States has expressed deep concern after security forces in Iran cracked down on demonstrators protesting crippling water shortages.

Security forces on November 26 fired tear gas at stone-throwing demonstrators as some 500 people gathered on the desiccated bed of the Zayandehrud River, which runs through the city of Isfahan.

Hassan Karami, an Iranian police general, said on November 27 that police had arrested 67 of “the main actors and agitators” from the protest. Karami added that between 2,000 and 3,000 "rioters" had taken part in the November 26 demonstration in Isfahan, some 400 kilometers south of the Iranian capital, Tehran.

Tear Gas Used On Iranian Farmers Protesting Water Crisis
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"Deeply concerned about the violent crackdown against peaceful protestors," State Department spokesman Ned Price tweeted. "The people of Iran have a right to voice their frustrations and hold their government accountable."

The riverbed has seen protests against the water shortages since November 9, as farmers and others have gathered there from across the region.

Although the region is experiencing a severe drought, many people blame the authorities for diverting water to neighboring Yazd Province, which has also been affected.

The largest protest, involving thousands of demonstrators, was on November 19.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni has said the water crisis is a top priority for the government.

Based on reporting by AFP and Fars

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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