Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry is investigating claims that Afghan migrants drowned after being tortured and thrown into a river by Iranian border officials.
The Afghan migrants were attempting to enter Iran illegally from Afghanistan’s western province of Herat on Friday, according to local media. Iranian border officials reportedly arrested the Afghan migrants, tortured and threw some of them into the Harirud river, where many lost their lives.
Authorities in the Herat province said they retrieved 12 bodies from the water, with a further eight people are still missing, Reuters reported.
At least 70 migrants are thought to have been attempting to cross the Afghan-Iranian border, with witnesses claiming at least 23 had lost their lives.
In a statement on Saturday, Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry announced an investigation into the incident had been launched with initial assessments suggesting Afghan migrants attempting to enter Iran were beaten and pushed into the river.
Noor Mohammed, who was one of the Afghan citizens caught by Iranian border guards, told Reuters, “after being tortured, the Iranian soldiers threw all of us in the Harirud river”.
While, Shir Agha, who said he witnessed the violence, said:
Iranian soldiers warned us that if we do not throw ourselves into the water we will be shot.
Iran initially denied the allegations but has promised to investigate further, according to Iran’s Fars news agency. The Iranian consulate in Afghanistan’s Herat said, “Iranian border guards have not arrested any Afghan citizens”, on Saturday.
While in a statement on Sunday, spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry Abbas Mousavi, claimed the “incident” took place on Afghan soil. “Border guards of the Islamic Republic of Iran denied the occurrence of any events related to this on the soil of our country,” Mousavi said in a statement on Sunday, Reuters reported.
Local Afghan officials, however, told the agency, that this is not the first time Afghans had been killed by Iranian police along the 520-mile border shared by the two countries.
Approximately three million Afghans live in Iran, including refugees and wage labourers, with hundreds more crossing into the Islamic Republic daily to find work. With the onset of coronavirus, however, the flow of traffic has reversed.
About 240,000 Afghans reportedly returned from Iran to escape the infection hub, for a while, the worst affected country in the region, between January and April. But as Iran has started to reopen its economy, migration has started afresh.