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Too Many Recent Fires In Iran Raise Concern Of Deliberate Arson

Fire in a flower market southeast of Tehran. June 13, 2020

A series of mysterious blazes and wildfires in the past 45 days across Iran have puzzled the Islamic Republic authorities, citizens and observers alike.

Local news outlets say a fire at the Saint Mary Church of Hamadan has been contained. The fire broke out on early Friday, June 12, a month after an ancient monument in the same area, the shrine of Esther and Mordechai was attacked by an arsonist.

Meanwhile, Tehran's Fire Department announced on Saturday, June 13, that a devastating fire at a flower market in the city's Khavaran Road has been contained. There were no casualties, but 32 flower stands were destroyed, the fire department said.

In the past 45 days several wildfires have broken out in pastures and forests, as well as blazes in some historical and industrial places and parks in Tehran.

While some officials of the Islamic Republic have attributed the cause of these fires to hot weather or disputes among farmers, others see them as suspicious in nature. Officials have made vague claims about several arrests related to the recent fires, but some insist the issue should be thoroughly investigated.

The Chairperson of the Environment Commission in the newly inaugurated parliament, Somayyeh Rafiee, believes recent fires at Tehran's orchards and parks were deliberate.

A Tehran city councilor also believes that arsonists are behind recent blazes at the city's parks and orchards. "The arsonists have deliberately set these fires with a plethora of intentions, such as creating insecurity, disturbing public peace and creating havoc," she has argued.

The Islamic Republic government spokesman, Ali Rabiee has also said that about ten percent of recent fires across Iran had been deliberate, and 150 people were arrested in connection with the fires.

Echoing his comment, the Deputy Governor of Tehran province for the security and order, Hamid Reza Goudarzi, said on June 9, “four devastating fires at four different spots in the capital city had been deliberate, and 'a number' of suspects are arrested and under interrogation."

Nonetheless, there are other officials, including the Governor of Tehran, Anoushiravan Mohseni Bandpay, who have attempted to present the recent fires as "usual" incidents.

On June 7, Mohseni Bandpay maintained, "The recent fires were minor, mostly unintentional, and some people have been arrested."