The Iranian Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology has suspended the registration of students without degrees in Iranian colleges. Representatives of this ministry have requested that Afghan students currently studying in Iran leave the country and return to their home nation to obtain passports and study visas in order to continue their studies. This ruling stipulates that only Afghan students with valid passports and study visas will be allowed to attend classes in Iranian universities at the beginning of the autumn semester in 2023. Afghan refugee university professors and students living in Iran have expressed strong disapproval of the Iranian government’s decision, describing it as unpredictable, unjust, and burdensome for young Afghan students and their families in Iran.
Academics are calling on the Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology of this nation to remove restrictions on Afghan students, as they are aware of the plight of Afghan refugees in Iran. Iranian-born Afghan students are also asking for the ban to be lifted. These students are in a desperate situation and are asking the Iranian government not to impose any new restrictions on them. They have stated that the Iranian government’s decision is preventing them from furthering their education, and that returning to Afghanistan is dangerous and obtaining a passport is a lengthy process.
Mojtaba Ahmadi, a nineteen-year-old Iranian-born student, has been living in Iran since his family immigrated there twenty-three years ago. He had been planning to attend one of Iran’s universities’ faculties of law and political science the following year due to his interest in politics. However, he was dismayed by the Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology’s recent decision regarding Afghan students in the country. In an interview with Hasht-e-Subh, Ahmadi expressed his shock, saying, “I don’t have a passport, and it has been said that people who don’t have a passport are not admitted to universities. All we have is a card. Furthermore, neither Afghanistan nor the Afghan Embassy in Tehran will resume passport issuance. I do not know what is going to happen to us in Iran.”
Ayesha Ahmadi, the 18-year-old sister of Mojtaba Ahmadi, had also hoped to enroll in an Iranian university for the upcoming academic year, but was dismayed by the recent decision of the Iranian Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology. Ayesha, who has urged the Iranian government to lift this restriction, has stated: “Every year, Iran imposes a new restriction on immigrants. They do not take into consideration the futures of young immigrants. We, with a million hearts, wish to study. Despite the fact that we pay the universities with our own money and with expensive tuition fees, they are preventing us from registering.”
Ayesha continued, “The Taliban have prohibited girls from receiving an education in our country, while the Iranian government is manipulating our destiny. We must pay for our education in order to attend universities here, as education is not provided free of charge. We should not rely on various excuses; do not interfere with the lives of thousands of young people and allow us to learn instead.”
According to a number of university professors, the recent decision of the Iranian government is unpredictable, unfair, and problematic for young Afghans living in Iran, causing concern for the families of students and Afghan citizens.
In an interview with Hasht-e-Subh, Arash Shahirpoor, a former professor at Al-Biruni University and a constitutional lawyer, stated that Iran has the authority to make decisions regarding its internal affairs without a doubt. However, given the current dire conditions that Afghanistan and Afghans are experiencing, it is likely that the majority of students affected by this issue will abandon their education and be unable to achieve their goals despite their interest in knowledge and their attempts to continue their studies. Mr. Shahirpour went on to say that Afghan students residing in Iran have a distinct identity for Iran’s political, security, and academic systems, and that Iran has no reason to be concerned about this group of Afghan residents. He expressed his hope that, in light of the unfavorable situation, Iran would not add more gloom and concern to it, in accordance with humanitarianism, Islam, the common ground of both, neighborliness, etc. He concluded by saying that this generation will never forget Iran’s tolerance, and he urged that they not make the situation harder than it already is for Afghan students in Iran.
In response to a recent announcement by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology, Afghan students who entered the country without appropriate documents will not be allowed to enroll in Iranian universities starting in the fall of 2023. The Ministry has requested that students from Afghanistan who are currently studying in Iran leave the country and return with their passports and study visas. Additionally, according to a letter from the director general of international student affairs of the Iranian Ministry of Science to vice chancellors of universities all over the country, students who have a residence card should not be registered.
According to data from 2021, only 1.7 million of the four million Afghan refugees in Iran had a document proving their right to live there legally. The Iranian resident card is one of the many types of these legal residence papers. Many Afghan immigrants in Iran received these cards up until the early 2000s, after which they stopped being issued. Those who have an immigration card or are born to parents who possess one are considered refugees under Iranian law. Although these individuals face numerous restrictions in their daily activities, at least they are not worried about being deported from Iran.
In accordance with the new legislation of the Iranian government, those holding an Iranian immigration card must leave Iran in order to continue their studies in Iranian universities, obtain a citizenship certification and passport, and then return to Iran with a study visa in order to enroll in Iranian universities as international students.
Afghan Embassy Seeks to Lift the Restrictions
According to Afghan diplomats working in Iran, efforts are being made to lift the ban and provide identity documents to Afghan residents of Iran. In an interview with the media, Vahid Faizi, a diplomat at the Afghan Consulate in Mashhad, Iran, stated: “We discussed the issue of the identity verification certificate with the Islamic Republic of Iran and sent a message to the representative of the North–East, and through that, to the relevant authorities in the field of education. As education and universities are involved, they should validate and accept our credentials.” Reports indicate that there are 110,000 foreign students studying in Iran, with 33,000 of them being Afghans.
Since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, the Iranian government has prohibited Afghan students without passports from enrolling in Iranian universities, as no new passports have been issued by the country‘s embassy there. Furthermore, Afghans have been unable to alter their residency status from within Iran, and Afghanistan has suspended the issuing of passports for unknown reasons in the past few months. Although the Taliban have declared that the distribution of passports within Afghanistan will soon commence, it takes months to acquire a passport there, making it difficult for the majority of students to travel there on a student visa under the rule of the Taliban. At present, the Passport Directorate in Kabul is the only authority to issue passports throughout Afghanistan. Afghans, including those living in the capital and provinces, must first fill out an online registration form and then wait for months for their turn. After confirming the appointment, people can go to Kabul and complete the necessary administrative processes to obtain a passport. It has been estimated that the Passport Directorate in Kabul can distribute approximately 4,000 passports per day.
Afghan Refugee Crisis in Iran
For a considerable amount of time, many Afghan immigrants have sought refuge in Iran. The number of immigrants in Iran has increased drastically due to the fall of the Afghan republic and the establishment of the Taliban regime. According to the Iranian government‘s most recent study, there are now more than 4.5 million Afghan refugees living in Iran. Afghan nationals in Iran face a variety of difficulties, such as the lack of visa extensions, limitations on education and training, arduous labor, and discrimination against asylum applicants. Some Afghan citizens have sought sanctuary in Iran out of fear of the Taliban, while others have fled Afghanistan for Iran due to a lack of employment.
The money sent from Iran is currently sustaining the livelihoods of thousands of Afghan families. Afghans who are employed in Iran are facing increased pressure to support their families and dependents‘ expenses there. Due to recent public demonstrations, inflation, high costs, the onset of winter, and heavy snowfall, there are currently few job opportunities in most of Iran. This has made life difficult for Afghan refugees residing in Iran. The high cost of living, devaluation of the Iranian currency, and lack of employment have left Afghan refugees in this country struggling to build their lives and provide for their families.