In recent years, protests have emerged to save Lake Orumiyeh, which has shrunk to 10% of its former size following decades of agricultural development, dam building, and drought. Lake Orumiyeh is located in the historically contested region of Iranian Azerbaijan, which sits at the intersection of three former empires: Persian, Ottoman, and Russia. In this talk I would like to show how imperial pasts and colonial presents shape exposure to environmental violence. In this talk, I use the example of Lake Orumiyeh as an entry point into how histories of non-European imperialism shape movements for environmental justice in Iranian Azerbaijan. I aim to untether understandings of empire and colonialism from the West, demonstrating how environmental injustice functions as a form of coloniality that is under-theorized in anticolonial scholarship on Iran.
Marie Ranjbar is a feminist political geographer with the Department of Women & Gender Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. Since 2012, she has conducted research in Iran that examines the political conditions that make it challenging for Iranian citizens to speak openly about human rights and how activists strategically frame rights narratives as a means of political mobilization, both locally and transnationally. Dr. Ranjbar’s work is published in Antipode, the Annals of American Association of Geographers, ACME, Environment and Planning E, Gender, Place, and Culture, and Hypatia.