Afghan migrants trying to cross into Iran illegally were allegedly tortured and drowned by Iranian border guards on May 3rd. Reports from the Governor of the Iran border district of Gulran, as well as the Taliban, estimate 55 Afghan migrants were forced into the Harirud river. Eighteen bodies had been recovered on May 8th, while six are still missing. “Based on the accounts of survivors and the marks on the bodies of the victims, they were first lashed with wire cables by the Iranian border guards and then forced at gunpoint to jump into the river,” Abdul Ghani Noori, the Governor of Gulran, said. One survivor, Shir Agha, told Reuters that Iranian guards warned the migrants that they would be shot if they did not jump in the river. Noori also stated the Iranian guards used shovels and gunshots to injure the migrants.
Up to 2,000 Afghans cross the border from Iran to the Herat province each day. Iran, one of the first Coronavirus epicentres, has just over 100,000 cases. The majority of Herat’s cases were from Afghan migrants returning from Iran. Afghanistan has been criticized for doing little-to-nothing to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. The Taliban also seems to be using the pandemic as a way of exploiting Afghanis.
Two years ago, President Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the Iran nuclear deal. Because of this, the U.S. reinstated sanctions that prohibit U.S. companies from trading with Iran, or with other countries that trade with Iran. The GDP rate shrunk by 9.5 percent and unemployment rates rose by 2.3 percentage points in 2019. Oil barrel production dropped from 3.8 million barrels a day to 2.1 million barrels a day, since the beginning of the reinstated sanctions. Because of these sanctions, Iran does not have the proper medical or economic measures to tackle Coronavirus. Afghans relying on the Iranian economy have been forced to go back to either Taliban-controlled health centers or deal with the Afghan government’s impassive actions.
If the U.S. does not lift sanctions on Iran, both the Iranian and Afghani people will suffer. More human rights abuses are bound to occur with the fight over economic prosperity in mind. If the U.S. wants to fight for an Afghanistan free of Taliban-rule, it is only right to help Afghans economically, and unfortunately for the U.S., that means lessening restrictions with Iran.