Taliban complains to Iran about treatment of Afghan refugees

Taliban complains to Iran about treatment of Afghan refugees
Afghan refugees in Iran have been mistreated and even killed, according to human rights groups.
2 min read
30 January, 2023
The Taliban captured Afghanistan in 2021 [Getty]

The Taliban have complained to Iran about the mistreatment of Afghan refugees in the country after multiple cases of mistreatment were flagged by human rights groups.

Abdul Mutalib Haqqani, the Taliban spokesperson for the movement's ministry of refugees and repatriation, told Saudi-based Arab News they have voiced concerns about the well-being of Afghans in Iran after numerous cases of abuse and even killings.

There are 780,000 registered Afghan refugees in Iran and an estimated 2.2 million unregistered ones, according to Acaps, with Taliban officials making a number of visits to Tehran to improve relations with their neighbour.

"There is no doubt that Afghans have faced a number of problems in neighboring Iran," he told Arab News.

"We have talked to Iranian officials…and shared such concerns and problems of Afghans with them."

The Taliban captured most of Afghanistan, including the capital Kabul, in 2021 after a lightning 2021 offensive, leading to another wave of displacement in the war-torn country, including over the border to Iran.

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Iran has hosted millions of Afghan refugees during the decades of unrest in Afghanistan, although treatment of this group is said to be poor and economic conditions terrible.

Tehran has deported tens of thousands of Afghans in recent years while many more have left willingly due to the dire economy and abuses in Iran.

"One of the problems is that a big number of Afghans have been forcibly expelled from Iran," said the Taliban spokesperson.

Thousands of Afghan refugees living in Iran have fled to Europe while others, particularly from the Hazara Shia minority, have joined Tehran-led militias fighting in Syria.

Undocumented Afghan workers are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by criminal gangs and police in Iran.

A video emerged this month showing a group of topless Afghan men chained in a line and being whipped with a belt, while Amnesty International reported last year that Iranian security forces have "unlawfully killed" at least 11 Afghans.

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The previous Afghan governments had complained to Iranian authorities about cases of abuse in the past.

Relations between Iran and the previous Taliban administration were poor following the Islamist movement's 1998 killing of 10 Iranian diplomats and a journalist at Tehran's consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif, an event that almost sparked a war.

Since the Taliban launched an insurgency against NATO troops following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, relations gradually improved despite occasional border clashes. 

The Taliban sent a delegation to Iran in 2022 following a series of border skirmishes and the mistreatment of Afghan refugees.