Four environmental activists die fighting forest fire in Marivan, Iran

by Meghan Bodette    


Four Kurdish environmental activists were killed while fighting wildfires in Marivan, an Iranian Kurdish city near the border with Iraq. Local sources claim that Iranian security forces caused the fires.

Hengaw, a human rights organization working in Iranian Kurdistan, reported that the names of the activists were Sharif Bajower, Omid Hosseinzadeh, Rahmat Hakimi Nia and Mohammad Pazhoohi.

Bajower was a member of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, which posted several memorial messages on its official social media accounts.

Two of the other activists were reportedly members of Chiya, an environmental organization based in Marivan. Chiya had done significant work calling attention to forest fires and intentional environmental destruction in the Zagros Mountains in Marivan and broader Iranian Kurdistan.

The Hengaw statement noted that “the forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, in particular, have set fire to a number of wooded areas near Marivan in the past month in order to drive out the Peshmerga.”

This tactic is similar to those used by the Turkish military against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party), and results in similar damage to civilian targets.

This summer alone, fires have been reported in the cities of Tunceli, Diyarbakir, Hakkari, and Sirnak, as well as in areas of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq and occupied Afrin Canton in Syria where Turkey conducts military operations against local Kurdish forces.

The most serious damage has occurred in Tunceli. According to ANF news, fires there have raged in 12 different provinces in the city.

This region has faced similar attacks in previous years. In 2017, a statement from the Tunceli Central Assembly on fires set by the Turkish military claimed that “the Turkish state apparatus has been trying to force the indigenous population to flee or migrate from the region by various means, including military attacks, construction of dams and gold mining projects using methods which are destructive to the environment, in order to carry out an ethnic and religious purge in Tunceli (Dersim).”

Thousands of people attended the funeral of the activists in Marivan today, chanting slogans in memory of the dead and against the IRGC.