May 6, 2020
Tehran has dismissed as a “bitter joke” US claim of Iranian border guards’ involvement in the tragic deaths of a number of Afghan migrants near the border, saying a “war criminal” and “state sponsor of terror” is in no position to level such allegations.
Last week, some claims surfaced in media reports that Iranian border guards had tortured and thrown as many as 57 Afghans into the Hari River (Harirud) in western Herat Province to prevent their illegal entry into Iran.
The Khaama Press News Agency said at least 23 of them drowned in Harirud. The Afghan Foreign Ministry later said it had launched a probe into the claims.
Tehran has roundly rejected the claims, saying the incident took place on the Afghan side of the border and Iranian forces had no role in the incident.
Reacting to the news, US Acting Assistant Secretary for South Asia Alice Wells took to Twitter on Tuesday and described as “horrifying” Iran’s “cruel treatment and abuse of Afghan migrants alleged in these reports.”
Responding to the US later on Tuesday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry posted a tweet on its English-language page to denounce Washington’s stance.
“What happened to Afghan nationals in Herat is tragic and unrelated to Iran, but the US regime’s allegation against Iran is a ‘bitter joke.’ The regime is a war criminal in Afghanistan and the state sponsor of terrorism across the globe,” read the tweet.
It hailed Tehran’s “strong ties” with Kabul, saying the Islamic Republic “leads the way to help” Afghan leaders set aside their election-related differences and form an all-inclusive government.
🇮🇷has strong ties w/🇦🇫 & leads the way to help Afghan leaders for inclusive Gvt. What happened to Afghan nationals in Herat is tragic & unrelated to🇮🇷, but US regime’s allegation agnst🇮🇷 is a ‘bitter joke’. The regime is a war criminal in🇦🇫 & state sponser of terrorism across 🌍. pic.twitter.com/V67oDy9Oov
— Iran Foreign Ministry 🇮🇷 (@IRIMFA_EN) May 5, 2020
Iran spends eight billion dollars on Afghan migrants every year in various sectors.
According to the latest official figures, 951,142 Afghan refugees reside in Iran. In addition to the refugees, there are around 2.5 million Afghan nationals living in Iran, inclusive of passport holders and undocumented Afghans.
The UN refugee agency has, on numerous occasions, praised Iran for hosting Afghan refugees for more than four decades.
Tehran has repeatedly complained that countries which caused the displacement of Afghans must accept responsibility and help cover the costs.
Washington invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban-run government in 2001 on the pretext of fighting terrorism following the September 11 attacks.
The Taliban, however, never stopped their attacks, citing foreign military presence as one of the main reasons behind the continued militancy.