Human Rights

Torture, drowning of Afghan migrants by Iranian border guards spark outrage

Salaam Times and AFP

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The bodies of two Afghan migrants who drowned after Iranian guards reportedly forced them into a river can be seen May 2 in Herat city. [Omar]

HERAT -- The Afghan government is investigating claims that migrants attempting to enter Iran drowned after Iranian border guards tortured and forced them into a river.

The incident happened on May 1, local media reported.

On May 2, the Afghan Foreign Ministry said a probe had been launched into the reports.

Afghan officials on May 3 began an operation to locate and retrieve the bodies, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Herat District Hospital received the bodies of five Afghan migrants, four of whom had drowned, said Aref Jalali, director of the hospital.

Twelve Afghans swam to safety, while searchers have recovered seven bodies from the Harirud River in Herat Province, said Herat Provincial Council member Ahmad Karokhi.

The Iranian consulate in Herat dismissed the reports and said no Afghan nationals had been arrested in the area.

"The incident occurred on Afghanistan's soil, and Iran's border patrol has denied anything related to this happened on our country's territory," said the Iranian Foreign Ministry in a statement.

The killing of Afghans by the Iranian military was "a tragedy" and is under investigation, said the Afghan embassy in Tehran.

'All of us were crying'

A number of Afghans who survived the incident spoke to Salaam Times about the violent behaviour of Iranian soldiers.

"When we entered Iran, the Iranian border forces arrested us and took us to a checkpoint," said Abdul Salaam, 57. "There, they made us lie on the ground and kicked us in the back. The Iranian police whipped and beat us with shovels."

"They took us to the river while beating us with whips and told us to throw ourselves into the river," he said. "Then they ... threw us into the water and fired a few shots."

"Most of my friends drowned," Salaam said, adding that his companions were between 11 and 50 years old.

Shir Aqa Taheri, another survivor, recounted similar torture and beating.

"They did not spare anyone and even severely tortured an 11-year-old child who was with us," he said.

"Some Afghans who were on the other side of the river tried to save us but Iranian soldiers fired at them and did not allow them to rescue us," Taheri said.

"We were 57 people, and 23 drowned," said Shah Wali, another survivor. "All of us were crying and begging the Iranian forces not to throw us into the water, but they did it anyway."

One of the victims was a 13-year-old child who drowned, said Wali.

Crime against humanity

The Iranian military violated all human-rights principles and international laws in the incident, said officials.

Abdul Qadir Rahimi, director of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), demanded the culprits be held accountable through international tribunals.

"Iranian forces have no right to kill civilians when they enter their country without weapons, and this is against human-rights principles and internationally accepted immigration laws," he said.

"They [the Afghan migrants] should have been handed over to the judiciary and prosecuted through legal channels," he said..

"The Iranian military has committed murder, and this is not forgivable," Rahimi said. "The AIHRC is working to bring the crime to light with international institutions so that those responsible for this horrific event can be punished."

The AIHRC in a statement expressed "deep concerns over such cruel, shocking and catastrophic treatment of Afghans".

It called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Human Rights Council and other international bodies to work with the Afghan and Iranian governments to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the incident.

Iran claims friendship and neighbourliness with Afghanistan, but in practice it does not show mercy even to poor Afghan workers, said Muhammad Sardar Bahari, a member of Herat's provincial council.

"These people only wanted to put food on the table for their families, but they were brutally killed," he said.

Between 1.5 million and 3 million Afghans live and work in Iran, most of them as wage labourers on construction projects.

Tens of thousands returned to Afghanistan after the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in Iran, but as restrictions ease in the badly hit country, many are again seeking work there.

The Iranian government's denials of the drownings of the migrant workers were met with derision from Afghans on social media.

"The Iranian government rejected claims that they have thrown Afghans into the water. They are right because they also didn't shoot down the [Ukrainian] aircraft," Musadiq Parsa wrote on Twitter, referring to Tehran's initial denial that it was responsible for downing a Ukrainian passenger jet in January that killed all 176 people aboard. Tehran admitted its guilt several days later.

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Shame on you dishonored Iranians. You bastard and son of prostitute! If we were not here, ISIS would have fucked you up. So be upset and thank God that we are protecting you. Don’t repeat such mistake to make us the future ISIS. Then there will be no one to protect your honor.

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Salaam, What do you Afghans want from the people of Iran? How long should we deal with your war, conflict and problems? Please stay in your own country. We have a lot of problems here in our own country. Stay and build your own country. Also, no one became happy with the death of Afghan citizens and they will never become happy.

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In answer to your question, I should say that migration is not only the problem of Afghans, but it is a universal problem. You slap hard on your own face with your this remark. See how many citizens of you Iranians are living in European and American countries now? They have dual citizenship, and there are a lot of immigrants now in Turkey, Greece, and also in other countries.
So how do you make judgment about the people of Afghanistan?
Today you have to be indebted to the Afghan people, because these people are protecting you and your people in countries like Yemen, Iraq and Syria.
You have to be a little bit more rational and assess the situation.

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For God's sake, this is the Islamic neighboring country!!! This is Muslim-hood, this is neighbor-hood, and this is humanity! May God curse Iran and Iranians for what they did during the last two months. They were killed like dogs and caves were filled with them. May God make their situation even worse, Jews will not treat Palestinians the way they treated these passengers. Well, if you did not want to let them enter your country, you could have forced them back, you could have put them in trucks and deported them. It's a pity Afghanistan's hands are empty, else, hypocrites like Iran and Pakistan should be targeted with kind of weapons which should demolish everything they have in minutes. Curse on Pakistan and Iran as they enjoy killing of Afghans.

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I would like to point out three things regarding torturing and drowning of Afghan migrants by Iranian border police; 1. It is a serious and important duty of the Afghan government and the military and security forces to prevent the illegal crossing of their citizens to various countries, including Iran, and everything that happens to these citizens on the illegal crossing is largely the responsibility of Afghan government, because various countries cannot be indifferent to their border and border guarding, especially in this situation in which corona has caused serious problems for all countries. All countries have closed their borders on the face of foreign nationals. So why were these Afghans traveling to Iran in this critical condition? 2. The next point is up to the Law Enforcement Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran. If these Afghan citizens were crossing the border illegally, there are special rules for dealing with them. If the physical torturing of these Afghan citizens and the drowning of them is confirmed, all the forces that were involved in the incident must be identified without any hesitation and negligence, and be dealt with severely. The silence of the NAJA (Law Enforcement Force of the Islamic Republic of Iran) commanders in this regard is also unacceptable and it can cause serious damage to the relationship between the two nations. 3. Iranian and Afghan officials must honestly share the results of their investigations with the media, and prevent the poisoning media from releasing false news. As mentioned above, the culprits must be dealt with seriously and decisively if the negligence is confirmed.

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Yes, I know that drowning and torturing these people is against the convention of human rights, customs, traditions, culture, and human principles. Those people who are without a legal document and a reliable proof and cross the border are known as aggressors; however, I know this is an undeniable guilt. Has this incompetent and vile government so far solved its internal problems as it should now address the external problems of the people? Even the heart of a stone is broken by seeing the situation of these young people, then how a human cannot have pity on them. Only Iran does not have this kind of inhuman behavior with our people. In this world, anyone who had a horse and power invaded this nation.

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