On 1 May, reports emerged detailing Iranian border guards beating, torturing, and forcing a group of Afghan migrants into the Harirud River in an attempt to prevent them from entering the country from Afghanistan’s Herat Province. According to one migrant who witnessed the incident, Iranian guards “warned us that if we do not throw ourselves into the water, we will be shot.”
As of 3 May, at least seven Afghans are believed to have drowned, and more than 30 remain missing. Doctors at Herat District Hospital stated that they had received several bodies – four of whom reportedly displayed clear signs of death by drowning. In a statement released the following day, Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry announced that an inquiry had been launched, however the Iranian consulate in Herat denied all allegations.
It is estimated that between 1.5 and 3 million Afghans live and work in Iran – many as wage labourers on construction projects. Following the outbreak of Covid-19, which hit Iran particularly acutely, large numbers returned to Afghanistan. With Iran starting to ease its restrictions, some have sought to return in search of employment.
- Al Jazeera, “Afghanistan Probes Report Iran Guards Forced Migrants Into River,” 3 May 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/05/afghanistan-probes-report-iran-guards-forced-migrants-river-200503092623834.html
- BBC, “Afghanistan Investigates Reports Iran Guards Forced Migrants Into River,” 3 May 2020, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-52523048?CMP=share_btn_me
- Many Afghan migrants in search of work cross the border to Iran from Herat province (BBC, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-52523048?CMP=share_btn_me)