KABUL -- Following the inauguration of Kamal Khan Dam, the Iranian government has stepped up pressure on refugees in the country, say local authorities in Nimroz province and Afghan refugees expelled by Iran.
Data from the Nimroz Department of Refugees and Repatriations show a 50% increase in the number of Afghan refugees whom Iran deported during the past month.
Returning refugees have been complaining of inhumane treatment at the hands of Iranian security forces, said the department's director, Mohammad Salim Qazikhel.
The Iranian military has intensified its torture and persecution of Afghan refugees, he said, noting that in the past month alone, "15 Afghan refugees have lost their lives while more than 80 have been injured" in separate incidents.
The Iranian military assaulted some of them who were trying to enter Iran, while the police attacked others in Iranian cities, he said.
Weekly, between 10 and 20 injured refugees return to Afghanistan from Iran, said Qazikhel.
"Between 1,600 and 2,700 refugees return daily to the country through the Nimroz border crossing, compared to less than 1,000 people per day in previous months," he added.
With the March 24 inauguration of the long-awaited Kamal Khan Dam project, Afghanistan declared the end of the free flow of water to neighbouring countries.
"We will no longer give free water to anyone," President Ashraf Ghani said at the inauguration. "If you ask for water, you must give oil. If you are asking for water, you should give something in return," he said addressing Iran, whose border is downstream from the Helmand River.
Torture, inhumane treatment
The Iranian regime's torture and persecution of Afghan refugees in retaliation for the completion of Kamal Khan Dam show its hostility towards prosperity and development in Afghanistan, said Gul Ahmad Ahmadi, deputy chairman of the Nimroz provincial council.
"The Iranian government calls itself 'Islamic', but its treatment of Afghan refugees, all of whom are Muslims and have sought refuge out of necessity, is un-Islamic," he said.
Iran regularly claims to be Afghanistan's friend, but its actions clearly show its hostility, he added.
According to Afghan refugees whom Iran recently deported, Iranian security forces have increased pressure on them ever since the end of free flow of water to Iran.
"Our harassment [at the hands of Iranian forces] increased greatly from the day Kamal Khan Dam was inaugurated," said Yaser, a resident of Kunduz whom Iranian authorities deported. He arrived in Nimroz April 27.
"Although I had my passport and Iranian visa, the police picked me up from my job and told me that my documents were worthless," he said.
"The Iranian police told me to go and tell my government to release water from Kamal Khan Dam so that Iran could have water again," he said.
"My family is left in Isfahan. Police did not even allow me to inform them [of my departure] or collect my salary from my employer," he said. "They forcibly took me to prison before deporting me to Afghanistan."
The torture of Afghan refugees has been on the rise since the day water from the Helmand River stopped flowing to Iran, said Haroon, a resident of Ghazni province whom the Iranian military deported April 27. He returned to Afghanistan via Nimroz province.
"The Iranian police lock up any Afghan they arrest for more than a week, and the food they give them is inedible," he said.
"The inauguration of Kamal Khan Dam has infuriated the Iranian military so much," he added. "Police arrested me in Tehran city and beat me so much while asking me why my government blocked the flow of water to their country."
Mujeeb-ur-Rehman, a resident of Nangarhar province whom Iranian authorities recently deported, said they expelled him after two days in jail where police beat, tortured and insulted him.
"The police asked me a lot of questions about Kamal Khan Dam," he said.
A bad neighbour
Residents of Nimroz consider the mistreatment of Afghan refugees by the Iranian government and its destructive policies towards Afghanistan a sign of hostility.
With the construction of Kamal Khan Dam, the Iranian government has increased its destructive interference, said Bahram Haqmal, a resident of Zaranj, provincial capital of Nimroz.
"It has never accepted peace and development in Afghanistan," he said, adding that it uses extremist groups it supports, such as the Taliban, to attack hydro-electric and irrigation dams and infrastructure projects.
The torture and inhumane deportation of Afghans who have an Iranian visa or residency violate all international norms, said Abdul Hamid Watandost, another resident of Zaranj.
This kind of behaviour will lead to severe hostilities between the two countries, with Afghans always looking at Iran as the enemy, he noted.
"The Iranian government has sent thousands of poor Afghans to the war in Syria for its own goals and put them in harm's way," said Zaranj resident Bibi Hawa Hakimi.
"Daily, it shoots a number of Afghans and kills them," he said, referring to Iranian border guards. Last June in Yazd province, they opened fire on a carload of Afghans. The car caught fire; three Afghans died.
"What country in the world treats its neighbours like that?" she asked.
"If it were not for its own interest, Iran would never have allowed a single Afghan refugee on its soil for even one day," Hakimi said.