In recent weeks, Afghan migrants in Iran have witnessed a surge in anti-migrant sentiment. They report a heightened level of detentions and deportations, along with severe harassment and persecution in certain Iranian cities.
At the same time, videos shared on social media show residents of Iqbalia town in Qazvin, Iran, shouting anti-Afghan slogans and physically attacking some Afghan migrants in the streets using sticks. These videos reveal Iranian citizens hurling stones at the homes of Afghan migrants and subjecting them to derogatory language.
Over the past few days, certain Iranian citizens initiated an online campaign to deport Afghan migrants, appealing to employers not to hire Afghan laborers. Anti-migrant sentiments have gained significant attention in Iran, to the point where the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission has taken up the matter.
Fada Hossein Maleki, a member of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, expressed, “The rising influx of migrants, including some who enter the country illegally, has given rise to legitimate concerns among our people.” He noted that the recent events in the country have been unprecedented. He characterizes this anti-migrant sentiment as fueling an anti-Iranian mindset and calls for a shift in Tehran’s approach towards the Taliban. He further stated, “The diplomatic apparatus or the special representative of the president, who wields significant authority, should reassess their policies toward the current rulers of Afghanistan, the Taliban.”
In addition to angry Iranian citizens expressing anti-Afghan migrant sentiments, certain Iranian media outlets have also contributed to the anti-migrant narrative. These media entities have fueled anti-migrant sentiments in Iran by spreading “misleading” news and analyses about Afghan events. As a result, Afghan refugees have faced physical harassment from some Iranian citizens.
Amid the surge of anti-migrant feelings in Iran, a video circulated on social media last week. It depicted a group of individuals in the town of Iqbalia in Qazvin, Iran, assaulting the residences of Afghan migrants with stones and sticks.
These protesters, while brandishing their sticks and clubs, chanted: “Blast them away with tank shells, Afghans must get lost!” They physically attacked at least one Afghan migrant’s home with stones and sticks.
However, there is another video, the precise location and time of which remain unclear but seem to have been previously unreleased. It shows an elderly Afghan migrant man sitting on the ground, holding a piece of bread, surrounded by several Iranian men. One of them strikes the elderly man on his head and hurls insults at him, as well as at other migrants.
Many videos of this nature circulate extensively on Iranian social media. In one such video, several individuals, one of them brandishing a dagger, can be observed tormenting and attacking an Afghan migrant in Dehgolan, Kurdistan, western Iran. The images provide clear evidence of torture and visible injuries on the migrant’s body.
Nonetheless, some Afghan migrants in Iran describe the treatment of migrants in certain cities of the country as distressing and intimidating. Nusratullah, an Afghan migrant in Qazvin, shared with the Hasht-e Subh Daily, “Last Friday, a commotion broke out in the street just below my house. I went outside to witness dozens of angry Iranians chanting slogans against Afghan migrants. Right before my eyes, they assaulted several young men and then pelted migrant homes with stones.” After the release of video footage depicting the attack on Afghan migrants in Iqbalia, Qazvin, Iranian police declared the detention of 19 individuals on charges of assaulting the homes of Afghan refugees.
Mustafa, another Afghan migrant in Tehran’s Sultanabad area, has also observed similar incidents involving some Iranians. He explained, “On Friday night, without any clear cause, a few Iranians arrived at the park and initially assaulted two young men with sticks. Their group grew, and they proceeded to use their fists and kicks until the young men managed to escape. It’s important to note that not everyone behaves this way; only a fraction of them have been influenced by social media and the media.” He stressed, “Currently, we are walking outside with fear and apprehension. We do not deserve these kinds of treatment.”
Conversely, certain Afghan migrants in Iran report a notable surge in police detentions and forced deportations of migrants in recent times.
Rahimullah legally entered Iran around nine months ago but has been living and working discreetly since his visa expired. He explains, “For the past week, the Iranian police have initiated a program to apprehend and deport Afghans, and I wake up and go to work quite early, retreating to my room after nightfall when everywhere is dark.” He notes that even migrants with valid residence permits in Iran are being mistreated by the police.
Meanwhile, certain Afghan migrants claim that Iranian media is exacerbating anti-migrant sentiments. They allege that specific Iranian media outlets are “encouraging” the Iranian population to be hostile toward Afghans.
Last week, the Iranian newspaper “Shargh” criticized the Iranian government for not formulating a migration policy while referring to the enduring presence of migrants in Iran. It asked, “Which country in the world can be found to host such a massive wave of migrants without a plan or migration policy? Why?”
However, several Iranian newspapers and online platforms have emphasized that several million Afghans reside in Iran.
According to statistics from the Iranian Ministry of Interior, more than five million Afghan migrants reside in the country, and nearly two million of them have arrived in Iran within the past two years, primarily due to poverty, unemployment, and fear of the Taliban.
In recent weeks, the expulsion and harassment of Afghan migrants and refugees in Pakistan have also intensified. While this decision has faced strong reactions from human rights organizations, Jalil Abbas Jilani, the interim Foreign Minister of Pakistan, defended the expulsion of Afghan refugees, stating that it is based on “international practice.”