Countries Where the Most People Are Killed Defending the Environment

Source: Courtesy of Joannah Stutchbury via Facebook

20. Kenya
> Named human rights defenders killed, 2012-2021: 6
> Most common perpetrator: Poachers (2)
> Population: 54,985,702

Last year, 67-year-old prominent environmental activist Joannah Stutchbury was fatally shot several times in front of her home in the outskirts of Nairobi. Stutchbury had devoted much of her life trying to protect Kenya’s threatened forests. Other Kenya-based activists who sacrificed their lives fighting for land conservation include Jomo Nyanguti, killed by police in 2018 while confronting them regarding a dam-surveying project, and park rangers Duba Issa and Roba Duba who were murdered by poachers in 2017.

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19. Bangladesh
> Named human rights defenders killed, 2012-2021: 7
> Most common perpetrator: Police (7)
> Population: 166,303,494

In 2016, three men from the Santal indigenous tribe were killed in clashes with police and workers of a local sugar mill after Santals were evicted from the land to make room for agribusiness expansion. Earlier that same year, four farmers were gunned down by police while protesting the Chinese-backed construction of the coal-fueled energy projects. The country faces an energy shortage, but locals who are directly affected by these projects have pushed back, arguing these plants will destroy the local environments upon which they depend.

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18. Argentina
> Named human rights defenders killed, 2012-2021: 7
> Most common perpetrator: Police (4)
> Population: 45,808,747

As in neighboring Chile, there is an ongoing dispute between indigenous Mapuche and private interests that seek to take their lands for financial gains. Among activists that have been killed speaking for indigenous rights against land developers is Miguel Galván, 40, who was stabbed to death at his home in 2012, about a year after another member of a local small-farm rights movement was shot and killed in his home.

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17. Myanmar
> Named human rights defenders killed, 2012-2021: 8
> Most common perpetrator: Unspecified (3)
> Population: 54,806,014

In many parts of the world, journalists are often targets for their work covering environmental degradation, including in Myanmar, where Soe More Tun was beaten to death in a 2016 murder believed to be linked to his work covering illegal logging and timber smuggling. Others that have been killed for their actions against environmentally damaging activities in the police state include Loong Harm, a 54-year-old farmer who was fatally shot. Harm was part of a group monitoring local mining operations.

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16. Iran
> Named human rights defenders killed, 2012-2021: 9
> Most common perpetrator: Armed forces (4)
> Population: 85,028,760

In 2018, four Iranian park rangers died fighting wildfires in the country’s western province of Kordestan. In this instance, there were no illicit actors in their deaths. But in at least five other instances between 2012 and 2019, Iranians were murdered for their activism, including Kavous Seyed-Emami, 63, a prominent environmentalist who was arrested on accusations of being a western spy and who, according to the authorities who detained him, committed suicide in his prison cell. In 2016, three park rangers were murdered by poachers in Iran’s Geno Biosphere Reserve.