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Afghan Refugees Die After Iran Border Guards Allegedly Force Them Into River

Afghanistan - The dead bodies of Afghans who intended to go to Iran illegally. May 2, 2020
Afghanistan - The dead bodies of Afghans who intended to go to Iran illegally. May 2, 2020

The Foreign Ministry of Afghanistan says "a comprehensive investigation" is underway about Afghans being mistreated and allegedly pushed into a river by Iranian border guards.

Earlier, reports said that Iranian guards had mistreated a group of Afghan citizens, drowning them in Harīrūd River, on the Iran-Afghanistan border.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has categorically denied the allegations.

Several Afghan news outlets, as well as several social media users, reported on Saturday, May 2, that about fifty Afghan nationals who had entered Iran illegally had been arrested by border guards and "thrown into the Harīrūd River after being battered. Some reports said that between five and 23 of the refugees were either drowned or their fate was unknown.

Afghanistan's acting Foreign Minister, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, has ordered his political deputy to set up a commission to conduct a "comprehensive investigation" into the matter, the Ministry said on Twitter on Saturday.

Meanwhile, daily Sobh-e Kabul (Kabul Morning) cited officials in the province of Herat as saying that the reports concerning Iranian border guards mistreating and drowning of Afghans have not yet been verified, and a local investigation into the case was underway.

Nonetheless, in videos posted on social media, those who identify themselves as members of the mistreated Afghan refugees say Iranian border guards battered and then threw them into the Harīrūd River.

Relatives of Afghan citizens waiting to receive the bodies of their loved ones.
Relatives of Afghan citizens waiting to receive the bodies of their loved ones.

"While Afghans were struggling for their lives and drowning in the river, the guards were laughing," the eyewitnesses maintained.

Another passenger, Shah Wali, told RFE/RL’s Afghan Service that "after torturing Afghans, Iranian border guards fired their guns and ordered them to jump into the Harīrūd River.

The Islamic Republic of Iran's Consulate General in Herat has strongly dismissed the reports as unfounded.

"Various sources, including officials from the Taibad Border Regiment, have denied the allegations, saying they have not arrested any Afghan nationals in the area," the consulate said.

Herat's GovernorSayed Wahid Qatali addresses a tweet to Iranian officials sayinf, "Our people are not Osama [bin-Laden] that you threw into the water. One day we will settle accounts."

Although the exact time and location of the alleged incident have yet to be clarified, daily Sobh-e Kabul quoted the spokesman for the governor of Herat, Jilani Farhad, as saying that the victims were residents of the town of Rubat-i-Sangin (or Rabat-e-Sangi) in the province and had entered Iran through Zolfaqar Valley.

Zulfiqar valley is located on the border of Iran and Afghanistan (as well as Turkmenistan).

Referring to "insecurity, unemployment and growing poverty" as the main reasons for Afghans entering Iran illegally, Afghan media have strongly criticized "Iranian border guards who mistreat Afghans repeatedly."

Sardar Mohammad Bahadori, a member of the Herat Provincial Council, told RFE/RL that Afghan people do not expect Iranian border guards to shoot at people who are forced to enter Iran out of necessity to find work.

"We request the neighboring country Iran to have mercy on those going there because of poverty and do not fire at them," said Bahadori, adding, "Instead of shooting Afghans, the Islamic Republic border guards could simply deport them, " Bahadori insisted.

There have been numerous reports in the past of Iranian border guards mistreating Afghan citizens.