News ID: 138306
Published: 0717 GMT March 16, 2016

Iran fire festival celebrations kill three

Iran fire festival celebrations kill three

Annual fire festival ahead of the Persian New Year claimed three lives and left hundreds injured across Iran, officials said on Wednesday.

Among the three who died on Tuesday night was a 45-year-old man who suffered a heart attack brought about by an explosion, said Amin Saberinia, head of Iran's Emergency Medical Service, IRNA reported.

The other two were a 24-year-old man and a teenager, said Saberinia.

Some of the injuries were serious, including a 14-year-old boy who lost both hands and was in a coma, Saberinia said.

The youngest victim was a three-year-old girl who lost fingers. Most of the 2675 injured were men.

Saberinia said the number of injuries were about 50 percent lower than last year, when three people were also killed.

The death toll has been falling in recent years, with nine killed in 2014 and 19 in 2013.

Each year Iranians celebrate Chaharshanbeh-Suri or the Festival of Fire, an ancient Zoroastrian tradition on the eve of the last Wednesday of the Iranian calendar year, by jumping over bonfires.

But fireworks and crackers are also used to mark the event, often causing casualties.


Zarif criticizes Australia's treatment of asylum seekers


Iran's Foreign Minister has criticized Australia's treatment of asylum seekers, describing their living conditions as "unconscionable".

Mohammad Javad Zarif told Lateline that the 9,000 Iranians who had sought asylum in Australia were lured by people smugglers.

"We don't like some aspects of the way Australia treats Iranians who have been basically lied to by human smugglers who come to Australia, the fact that they live in unconscionable situations," he said.

Zarif said Iran also held concerns about human rights in Australia.

"There are concerns about Iran's human rights and about missiles, [but] I just want to give you a bit of the taste of others, saying that we have concerns about the way others behave," he said.

Zarif denied that the Iranians who sought asylum in Australia were victims of human rights violations.

"We did not send these people out. These people were lured by human traffickers and by basically propaganda coming from, I don't know, government sources or others, which said that they'll be welcoming those who claim to be victims of what you describe as violations of human rights," he said.

"They're not victims of violations of human rights … you invited that argument."

Zarif met with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to discuss repatriating Iranian asylum seekers who fail to gain refugee status in Australia.

He said Iran would only welcome back those who chose to return voluntarily.

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