HERAT -- More than 500 residents of Herat Province, including women, civil society activists and religious scholars, gathered in Herat city on January 15 to condemn the Iranian regime's intervention in Afghanistan.
Tehran provides weapons to the Taliban and the Fatemiyoun Division, a ragtag militia unit of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) made up of Shia Afghans that fights for the regime and its clients, said the participants.
Tehran is involved in proxy wars, supports and arms the Taliban against the United States to achieve its interests and aims to destroy Afghanistan's hydro-power dams to prevent lack of water in eastern parts of Iran, said protester Laila Amiri, a Herat city resident.
It also recruits and sends Afghan youths to the Syrian war and other religious wars in the region, she added.
"If the Taliban didn't receive weapons and money from Iran, they couldn't do anything in the western region," said Amiri. "The government of Iran is the main supporter of the Taliban in the western provinces, and it uses the group to achieve its military and political goals."
"We want to show Iran that we are against its meddling, and as Afghan youths we won't allow the country to continue its interference," she said.
Dozens of Tehran-backed regional groups such as the Fatemiyoun Division operate in Herat Province, said Arash Basharyar, a civil society activist in Herat city.
"We condemn this act of Iran," he said.
"We want a crackdown on the spies of Iran in Herat Province, and they should be punished," he added. "We also call on the international community to put pressure on Iran to prevent it from killing Afghans and supporting terrorist groups."
'Qasem Soleimani is no hero'
The Iranian regime is seeking in Afghanistan to promote Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, late commander of the IRGC Quds Force who was killed by a US drone strike in Baghdad on January 3, said the protesters.
After Soleimani was killed in Baghdad, groups receiving support from the Iranian regime held various events in Herat city to promote the general as a hero.
These gatherings encountered strong opposition from residents of Herat, who considered the organisers of these events as spies serving Tehran and called for their punishment.
On January 6, more than 100 residents of Herat welcomed the death of Soleimani at a gathering in front of the Herat governor's office in Herat city, calling him a perpetrator of instability in Afghanistan and in the region.
They called him the main culprit behind the killing of thousands of Afghan youths who fought with the Fatemiyoun in Iranian proxy wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Soleimani was involved in the wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan that killed innocent civilians, said Fariba Sediqi, a resident of Guzara District.
Since his death, the number of killings has declined in the region, she added.
"Those people who hold condolence ceremonies for Soleimani's death in Herat receive money from the government of Iran, and they try to promote him as a hero among the Afghan people," she said. "He isn't a hero but the killer of thousands of innocent women and children."
Supporting the Taliban
One of the reasons behind insecurity in Herat Province and other western provinces is Tehran's support of the Taliban, said a Meshrano Jirga delegation that came to Herat to assess provincial security.
Tehran provides the militants with weapons, said Muhammad Hashem Alkozai at a news conference January 14.
Alkozai, chairman of the Meshrano Jirga's defence and security committee, led the delegation.
"Iranian weapons reach the Taliban," he said. "The reality is that these weapons are brought into the country through the borders and then delivered to the Taliban. These weapons enter the country through illegal border crossings, and sometimes even through customs."
"No one can turn a blind eye to the fact that Iran provides weapons to the Taliban," added Alkozai.
Tehran supports the Taliban in the western region and provides them with arms and ammunition to target the United States and put pressure on the Afghan government, said Hasan Hakimi, a civil society activist in Ghor Province.
"Iran's support to the Taliban has been obvious as the Taliban mostly operate with the help of Iranian weapons and money in the western region," he said. "The Taliban's commanders always travel to Iran, where they receive military training."
"All of us religious scholars, speaking with one voice, condemn interference by neighbouring countries, and we won't allow anyone to interfere with the internal matters of the country," said Maulawi Mujiburrahman Osmani, a religious scholar in Herat city.
Regimes like Iran's that meddle abroad must know that all Afghans are tired of war and that they will not allow Iran and other neighbours to transform their country again into a battlefield, he said.
"We call on the Taliban, who are Iran's puppet, not to further ruin their country," added Osmani.
"Violent activities that the Taliban carry out in the name of Islam have no place [in Islam]. They kill their own people every day only to achieve the goals of hostile countries," he said.