Shocking viral videos reportedly show harassment of Afghan refugees in Iran

Shocking viral videos reportedly show harassment of Afghan refugees in Iran
The flood of footage and images circulating on social media has prompted a response by governments in Kabul and Tehran.
2 min read
10 April, 2022
Movements of Afghans across the border to Iran have increased since the Taliban seized power [Getty]

Videos have emerged online reportedly documenting chronic levels of abuse against Afghan refugees across Iran this week.

One video, which has been shared thousands of times, allegedly showed an angry mob attacking a young Afghan while police officers failed to intervene.

In another viral clip, an Iranian man appears to be forcing a young Afghan boy to repeat profanities about Afghanistan while kissing his feet and crying.

The Twitter hashtag #AfghanRefugeesInIran showed images of refugees allegedly kept in cramped conditions, reportedly facing cruel punishments from security officials and suffering random attacks from the general public.

The footage has shed a light on the widespread abuse and increasingly precarious living conditions for Afghan refugees in neighbouring Iran and has unleashed anger in the Afghan diaspora worldwide.

"I can't watch videos of Afghan refugees being beaten and humiliated in Iran. It re-traumatises me. I lived in Iran as an Afghan refugee. I was a child, but in Iran, I was reminded of who I was almost every day: 'Nasty Afghan!'," tweeted journalist Zahra Nader.

"It is horrible, disgusting, and heartbreaking to see videos of how inhumanly Afghan migrants and refugees are being treated in Iran," said Zaman Sultani, a South Asia researcher at Amnesty International in an interview with Radio Free Europe

Many of the videos are yet to be independently verified but have

provoked official responses from both Tehran and Kabul authorities. 

"We urge the Islamic Republic of Iran not to harass Afghan refugees," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told BBC Persian on Tuesday.

Mujahid also called on Tehran to stop forcibly deporting Afghan refugees, and criticised Iranian border guards for beating and harassing Afghan nationals in temporary camps, allegedly set up near the border between the two countries. 

In response, the Iranian embassy in Kabul issued a statement denying the allegations, saying "the information currently circulating is a conspiracy to undermine relations between the two countries". 

"Despite economic hardship and sanctions, the Islamic Republic of Iran has placed no obstacles in front of Afghan citizens seeking refuge - and continues to receive them today," the statement said.  

The UNHCR estimates that over 3 million Afghans have sought refuge in Iran - 2.6 million of whom are living in the country without documentation and often face abuse, detention and unsafe working conditions - and regularly face deportation.