Diplomacy

Iran receives land in Kabul after angering Herat residents with wall for years

By Ali

Workers finally relocated the security wall in front of the Iranian consulate in Herat city over three days (February 10-12). It was the only obstacle that workers did not remove when Herat Municipality began widening the main road six years ago -- causing traffic congestion and accidents over the years and igniting anger and resentment among local residents. [Ali/Salaam Times]

HERAT -- Workers last week finally razed the security wall in front of the Iranian consulate in Herat city, which detractors have long called a malignant tumour for the city's traffic.

A new wall stands farther back from the street, giving cars and pedestrians more space, and allowing the city's ring road project to finally be complete.

The saga began six years ago when workers widened the 18km-long ring road around Herat.

The security wall in front of the Iranian consulate was the only obstacle they did not remove -- causing traffic congestion and accidents over the years and igniting anger and resentment among local residents.

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The Iranian consulate in Herat city began moving back its front security wall on February 10, six years after Herat residents demanded its relocation to help traffic flow in the city. [Ali/Salaam Times]

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The Iranian consulate in Herat city is pictured last May 30. The building's outer wall partially blocked traffic for six years. [Omar/Salaam Times]

While residents expressed relief that the old, traffic-clogging wall is finally down, they are not happy about the Iranian regime's demands of the Afghan government.

The old security wall in front of the Iranian consulate came down after years of political bargaining between Tehran and Kabul, Aminullah Azadani, director of the Herat provincial branch of the Foreign Ministry, said at a news conference at the consulate on February 10.

It was an unequal bargain, with Iran snagging more land in Kabul than what it gave up in Herat city.

"The Afghan government has allocated two pieces of land in Kabul to the Iranian government in exchange for the 1,600 square metres of land in front of the Iranian consulate in Herat," said Azadani.

The Kabul plots include 2,248 square metres in Darulaman and more than 900 square metres in Shahr-e-Naw.

The Afghan government has fulfilled all the demands of the Iranian side in exchange for Iran's removal of the old security wall in Herat city, Herat governor Sayed Wahid Qatali told reporters at the news conference.

"Our goal was to open the main road to our people, and after this, Herat city will not experience traffic congestion that bothers the public," he said.

The demolition of the security wall ended February 12.

Disregarding the demands of Afghans

Local residents expressed relief that workers finally had removed the old wall but expressed resentment that the Iranian regime demanded concessions in return.

Despite Iran's claims of being friends with Afghanistan, Tehran did not co-operate at all with regards to pushing back the security wall of its consulate, said Omaid Hakimi, a lecturer at a private university in Herat.

On the contrary, Iran always created obstacles to relocating the wall, he said.

"The public uses the main road for its daily commutes," Hakimi said. "I was stuck in traffic jams several times and couldn't reach my office because of the wall."

"I am so happy that the [old] wall has been removed and the main road opened to traffic, but it should have been taken down years ago," he said.

Abdul Latif Salehi, a taxi driver in Herat, said every time he passed the Iranian consulate he and his passengers were stuck in traffic jams for at least an hour.

"Because of traffic congestion, I didn't want to take the road that passes the consulate because it was so inconvenient," he said.

There were times when Afghans using that road needed urgent medical care but could not reach the hospital in time because of traffic, he said, adding that some died.

"This wall had to be moved years ago," Salehi said, "but [Iran] didn't do it and residents of Herat had to tolerate the inconvenience that it caused."

Although Herat residents repeatedly complained about the trouble the Iranian consulate wall caused and called on Iran to help, the Iranian government did not co-operate, said Ali Yousuf, a resident of Herat.

"Elsewhere in the world, neighbouring countries co-operate with each other, and they value their neighbourliness, but our neighbours... haven't done anything other than destroy Afghanistan," he said.

Iran delayed to put pressure on Afghan government

Iran should have allocated the land in front of the Iranian consulate as a contribution to the city's development and Tehran should not have demanded compensation, political analysts and civil society activists say.

"Iran delayed the relocation of its consulate's wall in Herat so that it could put pressure on the Afghan government and receive a substitute piece of land," said political analyst Abdul Ahad Nazari.

"With this, the Iranian government has proved that it doesn't value good neighbourliness and pursues only its own interests," he said.

While Afghanistan is engaged in the war against international terrorism and dedicates nearly all of its resources to that end, the Iranian government should not have spent years extracting concessions from the Afghan government, Nazari said.

"It isn't a sign of good neighbourliness to block the main road of a city for nearly six years and abuse Afghanistan's desperation in order to receive two times as much land in compensation," he said.

Afghans should have no expectations of a neighbour like Iran, he added.

Iran receiving even more land in exchange for a smaller strip in front of the Iranian consulate is theft and extortion, said Muhammad Asef Hussaini, a civil society activist in Herat.

"The Iranian government exploited Afghanistan's desperation to receive as much land as it wanted," he said.

Afghans will never forget and will not consider Tehran a friend, Hussaini said.

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In general, there is no system in this country. There is no government. There is no law. Everyone who has force and gold (guns and money) has the first say. I swear by God that there is a rule or regulation among the savage tribes. There was a documentary film in which tourists went to the savage tribes to make a documentary film. Believe me; the chief of the savage tribes did not let them go. He said, "You always come and make false promise, but you provide no assistance, no clothes, no food." The Chairman of Herat Provincial Council announced very clearly, without fear, in the media that he had 1,000 armed men who participate in demonstrations. “If the police chief reacts, we will carry out massacre,” He said. This incompetent, miscreant, shameless and unfortunate government does not say that his duty is to monitor, investigate and express problems, not to implement the executive power and enforce the law. You transfer the head of education department, you shoot the security soldier, you beat the prosecutor and tear up the case. Trafficking of oil and drug is your profession, and you do thousands of other offenses and violations. So what do you expect from this corrupt government? If the government wants, it can control all these the same way like it exiled Abdul Rashid Dostam for 2 years, but it does not want.

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The rights of Afghan people have been, are being and will be violated for years and centuries. Why???!!! Because we ourselves are ignorant. This process will continue unless we become clever. As the media reported, we had land near the Kaaba in Saudi Arabia. The land was exchanged (a deal was made over it), because we didn’t have owner (sympathizer), and now that our Hajis (pilgrims) who go to Hajj (pilgrimage), settle miles away in their rooms. This shows Iran's coercion and bullying. This showed harassment of Iran that how long it blocked the road to traffic with its own power. Think how difficult it is to convert a 4 inch water pipe to 1 inch. From 3-4 roads, all cars were passing by in front of the Iranian consulate at one time. That sometimes caused at least 45 minutes heavy traffic jam for pedestrians. Not only Iran, but everyone has misused our ignorance and folly, and galloped their horse well in this country. It is good for them. A fool and his money are easily parted. The same way, method and process will continue as long as there is our disunity and illiteracy.

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No, Iran's influence is like a cancer for Afghanistan that slowly destroys the foundation of this country and wipes out the identity of Afghanistan. Iran's influence has been salient over the past 20 years, and the Afghan government also has not been able to curb Iran's influence. Both Iran and Pakistan want Afghanistan to be under their direct domination.

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We do not need the Iranian consulate and embassy in our country. Afghanistan must cut ties with Iran, because it oppresses Afghan refugees and treats them like animals. Iran not only mistreats Afghans, who are living in that country, but also oppresses all its own Sunnis and deprives them of all life facilities. The Sunnis of Iran have no drinking water, no electricity, and no good economy. The poorest people of Iran live in Sunni populated areas.

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