HERAT -- More than 100 residents of Badghis Province took to the streets of the provincial capital on Tuesday (July 7) to condemn Tehran's interference in Afghanistan's internal affairs and the deaths of Afghan migrants at the hands of Iranian security forces.
The protestors in Qala-e-Naw, comprised of youth, civil society activists and religious scholars, chanted anti-Tehran slogans and demanded the prosecution for the drownings in May of 29 Afghan migrants whom Iranian border guards allegedly forced into a river.
The group gathered as well to protest an incident on June 3 when 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.
President Ashraf Ghani ordered an investigation into the drownings.
Iranian authorities have dismissed the drowning accusations, saying the incident occurred inside Afghanistan's territory. They also charge that those killed in the vehicle incident were fired on after having "defied police instructions and failed to stop at a checkpoint."
Rejecting those explanations, Afghans have gathered in a number of provinces including Kabul, Herat, Helmand, and Nangarhar to protest against Tehran.
The cruel deaths of these workers reveal the sheer enmity that the Iranian regime harbours toward Afghan migrants, said Farooq Shah Aimaq, a resident of Qala-e-Naw.
"Afghan workers went to Iran to earn food for their families, but they were inhumanly thrown into a river or set on fire by the Iranian military," Aimaq said.
"Despite being the main perpetrator of the massacre of Afghan migrants and workers, the Iranian government shamelessly denies any involvement," he added. "Such crimes against migrants are unprecedented in any country. Only the Iranian government treats innocent migrants and workers in such an inhuman and evil manner."
"Throwing innocent people into a river or burning them showed the extreme brutality of Iranian security forces," said Niaz Mohammad Ahmadi, a resident of Qala-e-Naw and a participant of the anti-Tehran rally.
"The Iranian government neither respects the values of being a neighbour nor cares about Islamic values."
A call for justice
Workers have played an important role in the reconstruction and prosperity of Iran, but instead of appreciating these workers for their services, the Iranian government resorts to committing such atrocities, Ahmadi added.
About 3.5 million Afghans, including almost a million refugees, live in Iran, according to the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees.
The protestors in Qala-e-Naw demanded that the Iranian soldiers involved in the killing of Afghan migrants be tried by international courts and face justice for their acts. In addition, they called on the UN to take action against the Iranian regime.
"Our demand for the Afghan government and the international community is for them to seriously investigate crimes committed by the Iranian government against migrants and not to allow the killers of these workers to live freely," Ahmadi said.
"The savage treatment of the Afghan migrants by the Iranian government has been going on for many years now," he added. "It imprisons migrants under different pretexts, tortures them and even executes them. This inhuman treatment of Iran is against all human and Islamic values."
Migrants and refugees have specific rights worldwide and no government has the right to torture them or kill them, he said.
The actions by Iranian forces are "unforgivable", said Junaidullah Ashkani, a civil society activist in Qala-e-Naw.
"We strongly condemn the killing of Afghan citizens and migrants in Iran," he said. "This is an unforgivable and inhumane crime that the Iranian security forces have committed."
The killing of Afghan migrants in Iran has no place in any international law and it goes against the principles of being a good neighbour, he added.
"Iranian security forces are always involved in killing and torturing Afghan migrants, but these have not been covered by the media and remain hidden," Ashkani said. "The latest two incidents in which they threw migrants into the river and set them on fire show the violence of the Iranian government against innocent migrants."
The UN and organisations that support human rights and refugees should take action immediately to stop the Iranian oppression of migrants and workers, he said, adding that the regime's violent treatment of Afghan migrants is acceptable to nobody and is a crime against humanity.
"The Afghan government, in co-ordination with international organisations, must pressure Iran," he said. "If the perpetrators of these killings are not punished this time, more innocent migrants and workers will be killed in the future."
An 'enemy' for a neighbour
The Iranian government claims to be a friend of Afghanistan, but its actions show that it is the enemy of Afghanistan, said Abdul Sami Qaderi, a resident of Qala-e-Naw city.
"We strongly condemn the brutal, cowardly and ugly actions of the hostile Iranian government," he added. "I urge them to stop this unnecessary violence against Afghan migrants."
"In official circles, the Iranian government claims to be the friend of the Afghan government and people, saying that both countries share the same language and religion, but behind the scenes, it is an enemy and stabs Afghanistan in the back," he said.
The Iranian regime is not only behind the killing of migrants, but it is also involved in the killing of Afghans inside Afghanistan perpetrated by the Taliban and other terrorist groups on a daily basis, said Mohammad Anwar Wakili, a political analyst in Badghis Province.
By providing money and arms to the Taliban, the Iranian government is directly involved in the killing of innocent civilians and Afghan security forces, he added.
"Our demand from the international community is to put pressure on Iran to stop interfering in the internal affairs of Afghanistan and stop harassing migrants," he added. "Those involved in the drowning and burning of migrants should be identified and brought to justice."