In addition to the Taliban’s failure in administrating Afghanistan, border skirmishes with Iran and Pakistan have further added to the plight of the refugees, creating a need for the regional actors to step in
The Taliban’s recent border skirmishes with Iranian and Pakistani authorities have added to the struggles of Afghans seeking refuge. Both neighbouring countries fear an influx of refugees and the export of extremism. The new Afghan administrators are incapable to address their concerns causing further instability.
The dispute arose due to a disagreement over road construction by the Taliban near the border and led to the temporary closing of the crossing and the seizure of an Iranian military vehicle.
A major concern is the mistreatment and exploitation of Afghan refugees in Iran. Last month, the Iranian diplomatic mission in Kabul and Herat suspended all services in light of a group of Afghan protestors throwing rocks at the missions. The protests were sparked by the videos circulating of harassment and humiliation of young refugees by Iranians. This is an indication that relations between the Taliban and Iran are sensitive and mere engagement between the two has yielded limited results. Tehran may have condoned the insurgent group’s leadership but is still apprehensive of the hardline elements in the organisation. Especially in light of the Taliban’s demonstrated failure in preventing attacks by the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISK-P) against the minority Shia community over the last months. Iran has long exploited the vulnerable Afghan population. Afghans who manage to cross over to Iran via smuggling route face discrimination and limited job opportunities. Additionally, Iran recruits Afghan asylum seekers to travel to Syria, making martyrs of Afghan refugees. In desperate need of money or a residence permit—or both, many eligible Afghan men are coerced to sign up for combat in Syria for which they are paid 500 US $ with the promise of basic schooling or university education and better living conditions for their families. Mostly deployed for special operations outside Iran, the Fatemiyon division is made up of Afghan fighters who belong to the Iranian Quds Force, an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The undocumented Afghans’ situation is in stark contrast to registered refugees. With extreme restrictions on livelihood, access to education and healthcare, they are under the constant threat of abuse and deportation by Iranian authorities. Since January, between 2,500 and 3,000 Afghans are being deported every day via border crossings from Iran. This number will only increase in the coming weeks with the escalation of tensions at the Iran–Afghanistan border. There has also been rampant abuse of refugees where the dead bodies of Afghans have been returned with missing kidneys and other organs from Iran.
The Iranian diplomatic mission in Kabul and Herat suspended all services in light of a group of Afghan protestors throwing rocks at the missions.
The Iranian government has been shouldering a heavy burden of dealing with refugees from Afghanistan for 40 years without much international humanitarian assistance, unlike Pakistan. Nevertheless, the scant international cooperation and fragile economy are no excuse for Iran’s overt exploitation of Afghans.
With extreme restrictions on livelihood, access to education and healthcare, they are under the constant threat of abuse and deportation by Iranian authorities.
The recent strains in relations are indicative of a decline in Pakistan’s historical strategic depth and leverage over Afghanistan. Taliban’s top leader, Anas Haqqani, recently expressed that “Afghanistan’s doors are open for India’’. This is particularly encouraging as India has been an active regional power.
Afghanistan under the Taliban is facing the worst humanitarian crisis with 97 percent of the population at the brink of universal poverty by next month.
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Rhea Sinha was a Research Assistant with ORFs Strategic Studies Programme. Her research interests include international governance and security with a focus on Indian foreign ...Read More +