Refugees

Tehran ramps up purge of migrants after Afghans vow justice for drowned workers

By Omar

In response to the Afghan pursuit of justice for Afghan workers whom Iranian border guards reportedly drowned in early May, the Iranian regime has accelerated the deportation of Afghan migrants in unprecedented fashion, according to Afghan officials. [Omar]

HERAT -- The Iranian regime, in response to protests seeking justice for Afghan migrant workers whom Iranian border forces reportedly drowned last month, has stepped up its purge of Afghan migrants by deporting them in large numbers, officials say.

On May 1, Iranian forces allegedly threw 47 Afghans into a river in the Dahan-e Zulfiqar border area, leading to the drownings of 29. The incident sparked widespread anger toward Iran in Afghanistan.

Afghan authorities have recovered the bodies of 12 drowned workers. The remaining 17 are still missing, according to the Afghan government's investigation committee.

"The pace of deportations of Afghans from Iran has picked up in the past two months," said Ahmad Jawid Nadem, director of the Herat Department of Refugees and Repatriations.

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Afghan refugees deported from Iran are seen March 12 in Islam Qala, Herat Province. [Omar]

"The drive to deport migrants from Iran has rapidly accelerated. On a daily basis, batches of 200 to 300 and sometimes 700 migrants are deported from Iran to Afghanistan," he said.

"In April 2020, more than 5,000 migrants were forcibly deported from Iran, and in 14 days between late April and early May, more than 2,800 Afghan migrants were deported to Afghanistan," added Nadem.

Young workers, the elderly, and women and children are among the migrants whom Tehran is deporting, Nadem said.

The Iranian police look for Afghan families and workers in cities and villages, and then arrest and deport them immediately to Afghanistan, said Abdullah Jalali, a resident of Kunduz Province whom Iranian authorities deported.

"Iranian police arrest Afghan workers while they are at work and take them to the camps," he said. "I worked in Tehran, and police arrested me when I was at work -- still in my work attire -- and then deported me. I worked there for a month and still hadn't received my wages. I begged them to delay deporting me until I got my wages from my employer, but the Iranian forces didn't listen to me."

Brutal retaliation

Between 1.5 million and 3 million Afghan refugees are living and working in Iran, most of them as wage labourers on construction projects.

A number of Afghan migrants and workers who have been deported by Iranian forces described atrocities committed by the Iranian regime and the reprisals they endured following protests of Afghans at home.

In one incident on June 3 caught on video, Iranian forces shot at a vehicle carrying Afghan migrants in Mehriz city, Yazd Province, leaving three dead and eight seriously wounded in the resulting flames.

Iranian police are taking revenge on migrants for the protests of Afghans against Iran, said Ali Hussain Ibrahimi, a resident of Daikundi Province who recently was deported from Iran.

"Since the protests erupted in Afghanistan to condemn the throwing of Afghan migrants in the river, Iranian border forces have started to put pressure on Afghan workers in their country and are forcibly deporting them," he said. "They don't even allow them to get their wages from their employers [before being deported]."

"When the Iranian police took us to the camps, they beat us up and broke our mobile phones, telling us that none of us could take any videos as these scenes shouldn't be disclosed," he added. "The police said that similar videos several times were aired on media and were used against them."

When Iranian forces arrested him along with some of his friends, they brutally beat the Afghans and ordered them to make animal noises, said Ibrahimi.

"The Iranian forces treat the migrants so badly. They tortured us," he added. "At the camp, they told us to make donkey and dog noises, and we had to do that."

Muhammad Azimi, a resident of Herat Province who also was deported from Iran, said that Iranian forces told him and other deportees that when Afghans protest against Iranian policies, they need to think about the consequences for the remaining migrants in Iran.

"When the Iranian forces arrested us, they took our money and brutally beat us," he added. "When we were in detention for three days, they didn't give us any food or water and took away our clothes."

"The Iranian police were torturing Afghan migrants greatly," he said. "They seized their money and broke their mobile phones. They [even] beat up women and children and humiliated everyone."

"The Iranian security forces don't have mercy on migrants, and wherever they find them, they beat them up and take them to the camp," said Abdul Baqi, a resident of Ghor Province and a deportee from Iran. "They arrested many women and children, separating them from their guardians, and deported them to Afghanistan."

"I went to Iran for work because I was jobless and poor [in Afghanistan]," he added. "I worked there for three months, but before I got my wages [from my employer], the police arrested me and didn't give me the opportunity to receive my salary."

Investigations underway

The Afghan government is committed to investigating the case of the drowned Afghan workers in Dahan-e Zulfiqar, and it will never turn a blind eye to the killing of these innocent workers, said Sayed Wahid Qatali, the governor of Herat Province, in Herat city on May 28.

"The drowning case of Afghan workers won't remain unclear, and we will continue our work until someone accepts responsibility," said Qatali.

"The documents and evidence are very clear, but we have given Iran the opportunity to participate in the probe to become certain," he added. "The investigations conducted by both countries contradict the initial statements of the neighbouring country's security authorities, in which they denied their involvement."

The families of the Afghan drowning victims have been grieving their losses, said Jan Muhammad Mirzayee, who lost his son in the incident.

Two children, ages 11 and 12, were among those who drowned after being thrown in the river. Afghan searchers retrieved their bodies.

"The Iranian border forces who perpetrated this crime should be tried in an international court of law and punished," he said. "They killed innocent workers, and they shouldn't get away with it. The Iranian government should be held responsible."

"We call on the Afghan government not to ignore the killing of these workers and take [necessary] steps to defend their blood," he said.

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In the name of God, as there is no God except Him. For the sake of Quran, do not kill Muslims. Where in the Qur'an is written that you have to kill hungry workers who take refuge in their neighboring country in order to find some food. Think for a while, as human is the best creation of Allah. Can anyone see his own children hungry? They are obliged to sacrifice their lives to go to different countries in order to earn money. By God, the blood of any human being that is shed for no reason will not be forgotten before God. Have sympathy with the war stricken Afghans. As an Iranian, I ask our dear leaders of Iran to let Afghans live in Iran and earn their livelihood. Thank you.

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The people of Afghanistan are hungry and war afflicted. The Iranian government is Muslim. So where is the meaning of being a Muslim? Is your Islam superficial? If Imam Mahdi comes, he will treat all the humans in the same way. May God take the right of the oppressed one, no matter to what religion he may belong to, from the oppressor.

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The poor people of Afghanistan do not have sympathizers; everyone or every country oppressed them, but no one asked them why they oppressed Afghans? What was the result of the investigating delegation which was assigned by the Afghan government to investigate the drowning of Afghan immigrants? Was anyone tried after the delegation completed the investigation? Did the Iranian government apologize from the Afghan people? Shedding the blood of an Afghan is not worth at all. When we ourselves do not respect the blood of our compatriots and kill our brothers every day, does anyone else have mercy on us? Are we Afghans united? Do we all support our government? No, we don't do that. Some of us are following the warlords, some of us are following Taliban, some of us are following ISIS, some of us are supporting Ashraf Ghani, and some of us are supporting Abdullah Abdullah. This country will not be built in this way. We must all support the system, not the individuals. If the government is corrupt, we should all criticize it. As long as we do not have a strong system in the country, we will be tortured and brutally killed every day by foreign countries, especially by Afghanistan's neighbors.

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If the Afghan government has a bit of conscience and honor, it must return all Afghan refugees from Iran as soon as possible and set up security checkpoints on all Afghan borders leading to Iran so that other Afghan immigrants do not enter Iran through illegal routes. Every day, we accuse the Iranian government and army for torturing, burning, drowning and killing of Afghan refugees. When the Iranian government and people oppress our compatriots in that country, it is no longer necessary for us to let them either stay there or travel to Iran from Afghanistan. It seems that the Iranian government and the people of that country are no longer friends of Afghans, so we shouldn’t look at Iran as a neighbor and go to that country. Every day, instead of appointing a delegation to investigate the killings of Afghan workers in Iran, Afghan government should set up several factories to provide job opportunities for these workers and prevent our unemployed people from traveling to Iran illegally. What kind of government it is, as it doesn’t care about millions of unemployed young people? Thousands of our young people leave their country every year and travel illegally to Iran, Turkey, Greece and other countries. Many are killed either on the way to Iran and Turkey or drowned in Greek waters. Youths are capital of a country. They are the human resource of a society. To cut a long story short, I want to say that the main culprit is war and unemployment in this country, and that the Afghan government and the international community, especially the United States are blamed for not being able to work for unemployment and poverty alleviation in Afghanistan for the past 20 years.

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