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Rights body concerned over alleged abuse of Afghan refugees in Iran

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Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) on Tuesday expressed concerns about Afghan migrants living in Iran.

Afghans have been killed in two separate incidents in Iran recently, sparking protests in Kabul and elsewhere.

The first incident took place on May 1 when 13 drowned after they were allegedly coerced by Iranian border guards to cross a river at gunpoint, according to a report from the AIHRC and a probe by Kabul. The second took place in the Iranian city of Yazd on June 5, when three died in a moving car after police opened fire on the vehicle and set it ablaze.

“We are seriously asking Afghanistan’s government and the Foreign Ministry to take seriously the issue of rights of Afghan nationals abroad, and have shared our concerns with them about the abuses that have happened in Iran against them,” Mohammad Alim Azizi, a senior AIHRC official, told Arab News.

He added that, due to a mandate which confines its operations to Afghanistan, the AIHRC could not probe the car incident. Iran has confirmed that the car was shot at, saying that the driver refused to stop despite being instructed to do so. It has promised to share its findings about both incidents with Afghanistan.

But the delay in taking the perpetrators to task has led to a public outcry and Afghans have carried out anti-Iran protests in recent days in Afghanistan, the US and Europe.

The demonstrations of anger led Iran to summon the Afghan envoy on June 14, after a group of protesters threw red ink on the entrance of its Kabul embassy.

Afghanistan pledged to send a high-ranking government delegation in the coming days to Iran to discuss bilateral issues and the fate of refugees there.
Iran is home to nearly 3 million Afghans, both legal refugees and illegal immigrants, and Afghans often use illegal smuggling routes along the 900 km border to travel to Iran in search of work.

Iran and Afghanistan have had an uneasy relationship in recent years, with Kabul accusing Tehran of using Afghan Shiite migrants to fight proxy wars in the Middle East, as well as providing cash and arms to Taliban insurgents fighting the Afghan government and US-led troops in Afghanistan.

Iran has been wary of the presence of US troops in Afghanistan and considers them a threat to the Islamic Republic.

The incidents were described as a wake-up call for Kabul.

Abdul Sattar Husseini, a lawmaker from western Afghanistan near the border with Iran, described the treatment of Afghan refugees by Iran as “utter oppression, terror and injustice.”

Toreq Farhadi, who served as an adviser during the former Afghan government, said Iran had used the presence of Afghan refugees in Iran as a “pyramid of pressure against Kabul” and was part of its policy of “unannounced confrontation” with Afghanistan.

The new government in Kabul, which is weak and has uneasy ties with its other major neighbor Pakistan, fears to alienate Tehran,” he told Arab News, adding that trade ties were another factor.

“These leaders think that they need to have good relations with Iran, which has become our main trade partner. We annually import $2 billion of goods from there and at the same time Kabul is afraid that Iran can play a negative role in the talks with the Taliban."
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