HERAT -- At a time when Afghanistan's economy is in shambles, Tehran is trying to lure Afghan investors and entrepreneurs to invest in Iran instead.
The Iranian regime on May 10 granted citizenship to some 20 Afghan investors and entrepreneurs.
Iran has vowed to provide full support to Afghan investors, a promise some experts say is deliberately aimed at hindering Afghanistan's economy.
Ahmad Zia Munir, an economic expert in Herat city, said the Iranian regime is taking advantage of Afghanistan's current crisis to encourage Afghans to invest in Iran.
"Afghanistan's current uncertain and desperate situation has led the Iranian regime to attract hopeless Afghan investors towards their country," he said.
"Iran has spared no destructive effort to jeopardise Afghanistan's business and trade environment in the last several years, and now they want to destroy the country's economy by attracting investment away," he added.
The Islamic Republic's decision to grant citizenship to Afghan investors comes at a time when Iran's own economy has been severely affected by global sanctions.
The latest move is particularly notable because Iran has one of the strictest requirements for granting citizenship to foreign nationals.
For example, Iran is among the countries that do not automatically grant citizenship by birth to any foreign-born resident.
Damaging Afghanistan's industries
The policies of the Iranian regime have in part led to the closure of more than 50% of the factories in Herat's industrial park over the past several years.
Iran's illegal dumping of cheap products to Afghanistan has led to the failure of Afghanistan's domestic production, say observers.
Hamidullah Khadim, Chairman of Herat's Chamber of Commerce and Industries, said out of 400 functioning factories in Herat's industrial park, more than 200 were forced to close due to neighbouring countries' dumping policy.
Afghan investors have taken their capital out of Afghanistan over the past years and re-invested much of it in Iran, he added.
"Afghan producers have lost the ability to compete in local markets because neighbouring countries, especially Iran, have managed to illegally [export] low quality and very cheap products. This has led to the closure of most factories," he said.
And now, "granting citizenship to Afghan investors is damaging Afghanistan's economy and has led to the influx of Afghan capital into Iran", Khadim said.
Mohammad Sediq Afzali, the owner of a food factory in Herat's industrial park, said that the rate of his factory's production has decreased by about 70% in recent years due to the excessive import of Iranian food supplies.
"I have invested $25 million in the factory and our products include cake, biscuits, and a variety of candy. We could not compete in the local market because the same products have been imported at much lower prices from Iran," he added.
"Iran has been playing a direct role in paralysing our industry sector."
Afzali said the Iranian regime's intrusive goal is to crush Afghanistan's industrial sector and prevent it from growing so that the country's markets depend on Iranian products.
Harassing vulnerable refugees
Tehran's efforts to attract Afghan capital also comes as most Afghan refugees face a different reality.
Iran has hosted millions of Afghan refugees for decades, but fresh waves have flooded the country since August, testing the patience of authorities and ordinary citizens.
Horrific images and videos of Afghan refugees in Iran have been circulating on social media in recent months showing bloodied young Afghans who have been attacked with knives and other lethal objects.
Protests broke out last month in Herat after videos circulated purporting to show Iranian border guards and civilians beating Afghans, although it was unclear when and where the images were filmed.
Iranian authorities deport some 2,000 people daily through the Islam Qala border. An equal number are also deported each day via the border crossing in Nimroz province, according to the Herat Department of Refugees.
Iranian security forces have been actively searching for Afghans to arrest and deport, Asadullah Nazari, a resident of Badakhshan province who was recently deported from Iran, said on May 16.
"I was working in a construction company in Tehran. The police arrested me at once and did not even allow me to change my work uniform," Nazari said at a UN refugee camp in Herat.
"They took me to the detention centre. They did not let me collect my wallet and personal belongings," he added.
"Afghan refugees [are valued less than] animals in Iran. When Iranian [authorities] know that we are Afghans, they start insulting us, and some do not hesitate to torture and beat us," he said.