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Three environmentalists killed tackling fire amid speculation it was started by Iranian security forces

THREE environmental activists died in western Iran on Sunday, it was confirmed today, while trying to put out a fire that may have been started deliberately by Iranian security services.

They were part of a team of four from the Zhiway Pawa Society, a Kurdish non-governmental organisation that aims to raise awareness of environmental issues in Iran.

The group was accompanied by other independent environmental activists in Iran’s mountainous Hawraman region, which straddles the Kurdistan and Kermanshah provinces close to the Iraqi border.

“While attempting to control the fire on the Marakhel mountain, two activists from the Zhiway organisation lost their lives,” spokesman Parastu Khedri said. They were named as Mukhtar Khandani and Bilal Ameni.

Their colleague Yasin Karimi died later from his injuries.

Fires have been raging in western Iran, destroying at least 300 acres of land around the city of Paveh.  

According to the Iranian forestry commission, as much as 7,000 acres of forest and grassland burn in the Kurdish areas every year.  

At least 95 forest fires have been started as a result of “human intervention,” making up between 10 to 15 per cent of the total, the state agency said.

It is suspected that some have been started deliberately by the Iranian intelligence services as they target Kurdish opposition groups in a similar tactic to that employed in Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

The United Nations prohibits the use of “environmental modification techniques” for military purposes, including the deliberate setting of forest fires.

But in 2018 four environmental activists were killed putting out fires near Mariwan in the Kurdistan region after the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps launched an offensive against Kurdish opposition groups.

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