Afghan Officials Accuse Iranian Forces of Drowning Migrants

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  • The migrants were allegedly pushed into the river and drowned.
  • “Our people are not just some names you threw into the river. One day we will settle accounts,” Provincial Governor Sayed Wahid Qtali tweeted Sunday.
  • The Iranian government flatly denied these accusations.

On Sunday, Afghan officials accused Iran of torturing and drowning 38 migrants who were attempting to enter the country. The Foreign Ministry says they are investigating. “So far, five bodies have been transferred to the hospital, of these bodies, it’s clear that four died due to drowning,” Dr. Aref Jalali, head of Herat District Hospital, said.

Afghanistan–Iran relations were established in 1935 during King Zahir Shah’s reign and the Shah of Iran Reza Shah Pahlavi, though ties between the two countries has existed for millennia. They have been negatively affected by the 1979 Iranian Revolution and issues related to the 1978–present Afghan conflicts (i.e. Mujahideen, Afghan refugees, and Taliban), as well as Iran’s water dispute and the growing influence of the United States in Afghanistan.

Iranian border guards are accused of forcing Afghan migrants to cross a river between the two countries. Local media reported the incident happened last Friday, while dozens of Afghans crossed the Iranian border from Herat District illegally. The migrants were allegedly pushed into the river and drowned.

“Iranian border guards have not arrested any Afghan citizens,” the Iranian consulate said in a statement. Ahmed Karakhi, a member of the provincial council, said that 12 people managed to swim to the beach, adding that seven bodies had been recovered from the river in the Gulran region. He added that about 31 people had disappeared and had no trace.

Noor Mohammad, one of the Afghan citizens caught, said that “after being tortured, the Iranian soldiers threw all of us in the Hari river.” The Afghan Human Rights Commission said on Sunday that it had spoken to survivors who accused Iranian forces of beating and torturing them. In a statement to the committee, the migrants “were forced to cross the Harrod River, and some of them drowned as a result, and others survived.”

“Our people are not just some names you threw into the river. One day we will settle accounts,” Provincial Governor Sayed Wahid Qtali tweeted Sunday. The governor of Herat province accused the Iranian security forces of causing the death of Afghan citizens. The Afghan Foreign Ministry said in a statement that a delegation led by the Deputy Minister of Political Affairs had been appointed to investigate the incident, pledging to take “necessary” measures.

Abbas Mousavi is an Iranian career diplomat. He has been spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran since 2019.

Iran Responds

The Iranian government flatly denied these accusations. “We deeply regret this incident, but this incident took place in Afghani and not in Iranian lands,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told reporters. He added that the Iranian border guards also denied their involvement in that incident.

Mousavi added, however, that Iran would cooperate with the Afghan authorities in conducting a thorough investigation into the incident. For its part, the Taliban demanded that the Iranian government punish the perpetrators of the incident, to ensure that it does not recur in the future.

It is reported that there are between an estimated 1.5 to 3 million Afghan refugees living and working in Iran, most of whom are daily laborers in construction projects. Thousands of refugees returned to Afghanistan after the emergence of the new Coronavirus, but many are seeking to return to Iran while easing restrictions in Iran.

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Benedict Kasigara

I have been working as a freelance editor/writer since 2006. My specialist subject is film and television having worked for over 10 years from 2005 during which time I was the editor of the BFI Film and Television.
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