Justice For Iran (JFI): The countdown has started for Afghans in Iran. According to the director of the Bureau of Alien and Foreign Immigrant Affairs (BAFIA), since the moratorium issued on determining the residency status of Afghan refugees in Iran is ending, single Afghan men residing in the provinces of Tehran, Isfahan and Razavi Khorasan must leave the country by June 20, 2012.

 This is only the latest steps in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s continuous discrimination against Afghan refugees residing inside Iran. In a report released today, Iran: an Afghan Free Zone?!, Justice For Iran demands  the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran to urge both Iranian government and the UNHCR make their entire plans clear and abandon their inhumane policy towards Afghans.

In March 2012, during Norooz, the most widely celebrated New Year festival in Central Asia, the director of the Committee to Enforce Ease of Travel in Isfahan announced that for Sizdeh Beh Dar (a traditional celebration 13 days after Norooz during which individuals are supposed to spend the entire day in a picnic outside of their homes), a ban would be issued for the entry of Afghan nationals into Saffeh Mountain Park “for the welfare of the Iranian citizens” and “to preserve security of the families.” National and international outrage followed this decision. However, instead of retreating, Iranian officials continued to pursue their campaign of discrimination against Afghans residing in Iran. In April 2012, the director of BAFIA’s office in Mazandaran Province announced that the province was off limits to Afghan refugees. Calling it a “cleansing,” Shafi’i considered the presence of Afghan refugees to be a threat to the Province and stated that “since Mazandaran is a tourist attraction, it cannot withstand the presence of these [foreign] nationals.”

As early as 2002, the Iranian government announced residential restrictions imposed on Afghan nationals living in Iran. More and more provinces were announced to be off limits to Afghan nationals.  Banning residence in a province for Afghan nationals meant that those who were living in that province, some of who have been there for years, had to relocate to another approved location and try to start a new life.

According to the political and security deputy to the Governor of Mazandaran, only in this province alone, 3,040 Afghan refugees were arrested and deported to Afghanistan over the last Iranian calendar year.  Upon the enforcement of this law, it is unclear what became of the Iranian women married to Afghan nationals.

Iranian citizenship as a blood right and can only be passed through the paternal lineage; all children born to Iranian men, no matter the location, can obtain Iranian citizenship with all the rights and privileges therein. The same cannot be said about children born to Iranian mothers and non-Iranian fathers. Furthermore, although a woman of non-Iranian nationality, upon legally marrying an Iranian man, can file and receive Iranian citizenship, the same right-to grant her husband Iranian citizenship-is not extended to Iranian women. Therefore, the children resulting from these marriages are not subject to the improved law and continue to be unregistered, without birth certificates, and receiving no benefits from the Iranian government. There are reportedly anywhere between 32 thousand to one million such children currently living in Iran.

The government of Iran maintains that foreign nationals without legal permit in Iran cannot attend free public schools or use the socialised healthcare system. As many Afghan families do not have valid refugee cards, their children cannot attend public schools alongside Iranian children.

In the course of JFI’s research, it appears that the UNHCR is evading responsibilities with respect to Afghan migrants inside Iran. As declared, the UNHCR does not consider Afghans who traveled to Iran to try to find a better economic opportunities to be refugees and so does not offer them protection while the conditions in their home country is deplorable. This also means that the issue of forced expelling-primarily a matter of illegal immigrants concern-does not apply to the refugees under UNHCR protection, in other words, not their problem. Meanwhile the refugees are undergoing voluntary repatriation when one of UNHCR’s responsibilities is to aid the integration of refugees in their new society and not to force them back to their country of origin or into refugee camps. On the other hand, Iran is sending mixed signals about the matter as well. It announces that it has no problem with Afghans who reside legally inside Iran and that the new plans only apply to illegal migrants inside the country, but then announces that all foreign nationals are to leave bordering provinces (forced displacement). JFI demands the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran to urge both Iranian government and the UNHCR make their entire plans clear and abandon their inhumane policy towards Afghans and:

– Stop the Iranian government’s campaign against Afghans.

– Process each individual Afghan’s case file separately and in accordance with international standards, assigning a clear and proper status to them. They should be given the right to appeal and file a complaint against the decisions of the Iranian officials.

– The Iranian government has to accept the Afghans as either migrants or asylum seekers, with all the rights granted to them as such. Returning illegal immigrants to their country must also be done while recognizing their human dignity, ensuring their right to life, minimum standard of living, and under the supervision of international bodies. Families comprising of Iranian – Afghan couples (Iranian woman – Afghan man) and their children must be recognized as Iranian and not deported under any circumstances.

–  All Iranian officials responsible for the mistreatment and the violation of the rights of Afghan migrants, including Ahmad Reza Shafi’I, Seyyed Taghi Shafi’iMohammad Tahavori, and Hadi Ebrahimi must be held accountable for their actions.
To read the full “Iran: an Afghan Free Zone?!” report, please click link below: