Sat, 15 Aug 2020

Three environmental activists have died in western Iran while trying to extinguish wildfires in a mountainous area close to the border.

The three -- Mokhtar Khandani, Yasin Karimi, and Balal Amini -- died on June 28 in the Hawraman region in Kermanshah Province, Iranian media reported.

"[The three men] were surrounded by fire and due to heavy winds their lives could not be saved," Jalil Balayi, the director of the provincial crisis management office in Kermanshah, told the official government news agency IRNA.

Earlier, the head of the country's Environmental Protection Unit, Jamshid Mohabatkhani, told the semiofficial Mehr news agency that it wasn't clear whether the three men had died due to fire in the region or land mines left from the 1980-88 war with Iraq.

Reports said hundreds of residents in Paveh city took to the streets on the evening of June 28 to say farewell to the three men.

Footage posted on social media showed ambulances carrying the remains of the three surrounded by residents, some of whom were chanting "martyrs don't die."

Khandani was the spokesman of the Zhiway Pawa Society, a nongovernmental organization working to raise environmental awareness. Amini worked with the same group, while Karimi was also involved in protecting the environment as a volunteer.

Iran has been hit by wildfires in recent weeks in the Zagros mountain range that runs along the western side of the country. The provinces of Ilam, Kurdistan, Khuzestan, and Bushehr have been affected as well. Volunteers have been reportedly involved in attempts to extinguish the fires amid criticism that authorities were not doing enough to contain the wildfires.

Last month, Iranian media reported that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) had dispatched helicopters to Zagros to contain forest fires.

Army helicopters were reportedly also assigned to extinguish fires in a protected area in Kohgiluyeh in the southwest.

Officials have suggested that some of the recent fires across Iran have been caused by arson.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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