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Two dozen Afghan refugees blindfolded, handcuffed and displayed in cages in Shiraz,Iran

The caging of Afghans has angered some Iranians and the Afghanistan's Ministry of Refugees and Returnees strongly condemns this inhumane treatment

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This photo released by the Iranian Students' News Agency shows 'foreign nationals' who were displayed alongside contraband items - including weapons - by police in Shiraz, Iran Image Source: VOA
  • Afghan refugees were displayed in a large metal cage
  • The refugees were among some 200 foreign nationals who entered Iran illegally and were arrested
  • The Afghan government is protesting Iran’s decision to blindfold several Afghans and put them in cages

September 11,2016: The Afghan government is protesting Iran’s decision to blindfold several Afghans and put them in cages in the center of Shiraz this week.

Nearly two dozen handcuffed Afghan refugees were displayed in a large metal cage. Police also exhibited confiscated items, including weapons, explosives, drugs, alcohol and smuggled soft drinks.

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The deputy police chief of Shiraz, Nasser Keshawarz, said the refugees were among some 200 foreign nationals who entered Iran illegally and were arrested. Pictures of the public detention went viral on the internet, drawing outrage from Afghans and human rights activists, and an official diplomatic protest from Kabul.

The Afghan government is protesting Iran’s decision to blindfold several Afghans and put them in cages. Image Source: VOA

The Afghan government is protesting Iran’s decision to blindfold several Afghans and put them in cages.

“Afghanistan’s Ministry of Refugees and Returnees strongly condemns this inhumane and humiliating treatment and violation of human dignity of Afghan refugees by the Shiraz city police,” the Afghan government said in a statement. “This behavior undoubtedly contradicts Human Rights, the 1951 [Refugee] Convention, and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, and stands against the bilateral refugee agreements between the two countries.”

There was no response from Tehran or on official state-run media.

Criticism of Iran

Mohammad Reza Khoshak, an Afghan parliament member from western Herat province, which borders Iran, denounced the Iranian regime.

“In Shiraz, a city well-known for its poet Saadi, who asks for equality for all humans, my fellow citizens are put in cages and mistreated in a way similar to what militants of the Islamic State do to their prisoners,” he told an Afghan newspaper.

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Well-known Afghan poet Mustafa Hazara criticized Iran on his Facebook page. “How low a human could go?” he asked. “Look, my Iranian friends, if you travel outside your geographic location [country], you would realize that the value of humans is different than what you think of.”

‘Systematic prejudice’

Roughly 3 million Afghans live in Iran. Most of them settled there after fleeing war and conflict in their homeland, and many lack basic rights and live without a formal status. About 950,000 Afghans in Iran are classified as refugees.

Iran has sent thousands of Afghan refugees, mainly ethnic Shi’ite Hazaras, to Syria to fight alongside forces of Hezbollah and Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard forces in support of the Syrian government. Dozens of Afghans have died in the Syrian war.

In his online post, Hazara asked educated Iranians to fight what he termed a systematic prejudice by Iran against Afghan refugees.

In general, Afghans living in Iran try to keep a low profile so as to not anger the regime.

“They [Iranian authorities] are very tough on us, and even one of my colleagues got a threatening message to not talk with foreign media about the incident,” Afghan journalist Kazem Sharafuddin told VOA from Mashhad.

The caging of Afghans has angered some Iranians, as well. Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami’s spokesperson, Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, condemned the move.

“We are ashamed before Afghan people, ashamed before humanity,” Ramezanzadeh said on his Instagram account. (VOA)

Next Story

Coronavirus in Iran Leads to Economic Decline

Iranian Economy Faces Setback on Coronavirus Concerns

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Iran coronavirus
Spread of the coronavirus in Iran has pushed that country's currency to lows not seen in almost a year. Pixabay

By Edward Yeranian

Arab media are reporting that the spread of the coronavirus in Iran has pushed that country’s currency to lows not seen in almost a year. Iranian health officials say there are more than 200 confirmed cases in the country, and at least 26 deaths.

Turkey, Armenia, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have all closed land and air borders with Iran in recent days, due to the coronavirus.

As the closures stop the flow of traffic to and from Iran, fears of a deepening economic slump are hitting Iran’s national currency, the riyal.

Arab media say the riyal fell to 158,500 to the dollar on the black market Wednesday, its lowest level in over a year. The riyal’s official peg is 42,000 to the dollar.

Iran coronavirus
As the closures stop the flow of traffic to and from Iran, fears of a deepening economic slump are hitting Iran’s national currency, the riyal. Pixabay

Many economists fear that both Iran’s oil and non-oil exports will be hit by a regional trade slump due to the virus. Religious tourism to Iran’s holy sites will also be affected by border closures and quarantines around public places. Sales during the normally robust pre-Nowrouz new year’s festival are falling.

Despite the downward pressure on Iran’s economy, President Hassan Rouhani told journalists Thursday that the country, until recently, had been thriving.

He said that both industry and agriculture did very well during the past several months. He added that the economy will flourish if Iranians do not let U.S. sanctions or the coronavirus have a psychological impact on their behavior.

Iran coronavirus
Women wear masks to protect themselves against the coronavirus, as they cross a street in Tehran, Iran. VOA

Despite the president’s optimism, state TV showed Iranians in the capital, Tehran, swarming a pharmacy in the pursuit of flu medication and face masks. Panic-buying was also reported at some other businesses.

Former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani Sadr told VOA that “almost everything necessary to fight the virus outbreak is missing in Iran,” and ordinary people “blame their government and U.S. sanctions for the current crisis.”

He added that the Iranian economy depends on trade with its neighbors, so one can just imagine the poverty Iranians face if trade diminishes with partners like Turkey, Iraq, Russia and elsewhere.

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An Iranian member of parliament recently blamed Tehran’s eagerness to come to the rescue of its major trading partner, China, for shortages inside his own country. Iran sent thousands of face masks to China during the initial phase of the coronavirus outbreak, and now faces a severe shortage at home.

“Iranians,” laments former President Bani Sadr, “now have no confidence in the regime or its propaganda, and even less faith that the outside world will come to their rescue.” (VOA)