Health

Afghans in Iran infected with coronavirus denied care at hospitals

By Najibullah

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Afghan refugees deported from Iran await re-entry into Afghanistan in Islam Qala, Herat Province, March 12. [Omar]

KABUL -- Hospitals in Iran are refusing to offer care for Afghans who have contracted the coronavirus, citizens and officials say.

Iran has a population of Afghan refugees and migrant workers estimated to number about three million, according to the United Nations.

Abdullah, 35, who returned from Iran to Afghanistan on March 15, said he came back because of concerns that he would receive no care should he contract the virus. He had seen how his compatriots were not provided medical care.

"I know a few Afghans who contracted the coronavirus," he said. "They went to a number of hospitals where they were not tested or admitted, and they were told to go back to their country."

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An Iranian woman receives treatment from doctors to battle the coronavirus at a hospital in Tehran, where Afghan migrants have been denied admittance. [Hasan Shirvani/IRNA]

"[The hospitals'] behaviour wasn't good, and we thought if we contract the coronavirus and the hospitals don't admit us, it is better we go back to Afghanistan," he added.

Hospitals in Iran are refusing to provide care to Afghans, confirmed Abdul Hakim, 37, who also left that country after the coronavirus outbreak.

"One of our countrymen who worked in a factory in Tehran contracted the coronavirus from his boss," Hakim said.

"His Iranian boss was admitted to the hospital, but the Afghan worker wasn't accepted at the hospital. He had to stay at home, where he desperately took over-the-counter medicine for a month," he said. "He finally died."

In addition to refusing to treat Afghans, Iranian authorities have been rounding up thousands of refugees suspected or confirmed of having the coronavirus and deporting them back to Afghanistan.

Discrimination against Afghans

Iran is among the countries with the most coronavirus cases and deaths. It had 2,898 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 as of Tuesday (March 31), but the true number could be much higher.

The Iranian regime has provided no data specifically regarding the number of Afghan migrant workers or refugees known to have tested positive for the coronavirus.

At least six Afghan citizens have died from the coronavirus in Iran, while a large number of them have contracted the disease, according to the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations.

The Afghan Embassy in Tehran March 29 gave a higher number, saying that at least 50 Afghans who had contracted the virus have died so far in Iran.

The data comes from information gathered from relatives of those who have died, the BBC reported, citing Ibrahim Hejazi, the attaché for refugee affairs at the embassy in Tehran.

The Afghan embassy could not confirm this number until it has proper verification, Hejazi said.

Afghan officials said that they have asked Iranian authorities to provide information on Afghans who have contracted the virus, to no avail.

"Even though we have asked the relevant agencies [in Iran] a few times for information, the Iranian authorities haven't provided the embassy with accurate or the approximate number of Afghans infected with the coronavirus in Iran," said Abdul Ghafoor Liwal, Afghanistan's ambassador in Tehran, in an interview with the BBC.

The Iranian Embassy in Kabul did not respond to inquiries by Salaam Times.

There have been complaints on social media that Iranian hospitals do not admit Afghans, Liwal said in the BBC report, adding that the Afghan embassy is closely looking at the issue and has shared the complaints with relevant Iranian agencies.

Prioritising Iranians

About 200,000 Afghans have returned from Iran through the Islam Qala border crossing and 51,000 through the Nimroz crossing since February 20, said Dr. Alema, the deputy minister of the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations, who goes by one name.

"Most of the Afghans who have returned from Iran complain that they are, unfortunately, not given medical treatment at Iranian hospitals and that they face discrimination there," she said.

Iranian hospitals clearly not are providing Afghan patients the same treatment that they give to Iranian citizens, said Gul Ahmad Noorzad, a representative of Nimroz Province in the Wolesi Jirga.

"Even before the outbreak of the coronavirus, Afghans suffered discriminatory treatment in Iran," said Noorzad. "Now that they [Iranians] have contracted the coronavirus themselves, it is obvious that they aren't behaving well towards Afghans and they prioritise their own citizens."

"According to the ethics of medicine and international conventions, Iran is required not to discriminate against Afghans who have contracted the coronavirus and to provide [necessary medical] treatment to them," said Aziz Rafiee, a civil society activist in Kabul.

"Unfortunately, the government of Iran has always treated our refugees with discrimination, and it does not conduct itself properly with them in this situation as well," he added.

Rafiee called on the Afghan government to address this issue through legal channels. Afghan refugees must not be denied medical treatment in Iran, he reiterated.

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May God damn the Afghan leaders who have made this oppressed nation so miserable. Death to the statesmen of Afghanistan. This is Abdul Qahar Baba from Gosfandi District of Sar-e Pol Province.

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Damn with the destructive war of Afghanistan! If there was no war in Afghanistan, why would Afghans live in the dirty country of Iran? If there was peace here, the people would have had a good country. Economy of both the people and the government would have been good. The people would not have been obliged to go to Iran and face these problems now. War causes havoc, war leads to poverty, war brings misery and war ruins the people. So let's bring peace to this country and try day and night to rescue our country from the need of foreign countries.

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So far, I had sympathy toward Iranians, but now I would like to say, may God destroy all of them altogether. These sons of wicked people are harsher than Jews and are enemies of the humanity. Doctor, no matter if he is a Muslim or an infidel, should not differentiate among the Muslim, infidel, Christian and Jewish patients, and should treat all of them similarly. Another point is that the international community especially WHO, Red Cross and UNICEF should make hospitals on the zonal level inside Afghanistan so that Afghan patients not need go to other countries for treatment.

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Since Afghan refugees infected with coronavirus are not treated in Iran and the hospitals of that country admit no Afghan, these refugees return to Afghanistan. And this itself has caused spreading of the disease in Herat and other provinces of the country. Afghan government should quarantine all those people who return from Iran in the western provinces of the country in order that the disease not spread to other provinces.

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Although this disease is universal and everyone should be treated equally, Afghans may not be cared for the high prevalence of Corona virus in Iran. So we expect to receive care if we need it.

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The government of Iran itself declared that they do not make difference among the Corona patients, but hospitals of the country do not follow the government declaration. Afghan Embassy in Iran should share this problem with the Iranian government and ask them to pay strict attention in this regard.

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I am telling you clearly that in Iran no one cares about Afghans whatsoever. No one looks at Afghans, and they do not receive treatment. Iranians don’t treat Afghans even as animals. The government of Afghanistan should reach to the problems of Afghan refugees residing in Iran as soon as possible.

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Three days ago, one of our relatives, who lives in Iran, had Corona symptoms. He was taken for check-up to Imam Khomaini Hospital, one of the well-equipped hospitals in Iran, but responsible staff of the hospital paid no attention and did not admit him. Now he is in a very critical condition. May God have mercy on him.

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Iran is the main cause of Corona pandemic in Afghanistan, and one of the reasons for returning Afghan refugees to Afghanistan is that they are not treated in Iran whatsoever. That’s why they are returning to their own country. If Iran treated Afghan refugees in its country, Afghan refugees would never have returned to Afghanistan in this great number, and Corona virus would not have spread in Afghanistan. Death to the criminal Iran. May God bring His own wrath and torment on Iranian government.

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This article is no more than a lie. Right now, my grandfather is hospitalized in a hospital in Qom.

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