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Iran using Afghan refugees in proxy wars in Middle East

“Earlier Iran was sending Afghan refugees to Syria to fight in favor of Bashar al-Assad, and now trying to use Afghans in its proxy war in Yemen”

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By Mansoor Faizy

KABUL: The volatile security situation and human rights violations in Afghanistan remain to be the biggest concerns for Afghan refugees living in Iran and Pakistan.  Political instability and war at home have pushed millions of Afghans to live in refuge in Iran and Pakistan where they come across of unspeakable troubles. However, if one compares lives of Afghan refugees in the two hosting states, one easily realizes that Iran has become a land of troubles for them. In Pakistan the status of refugees degraded to a new low after the deadly attack on an army-run school in Peshawar, where 130 schoolchildren were killed. Soon after the attack, Pakistan’s security officials starting raising fingers at Kabul, as if it was Kabul that had carried out the attacks. They were started to be harassed and detained, and deported; even those refugees were not spared who are living there for decade while holding legal credentials being issued by the government of Pakistan and the UNHCR. Let alone the civilians, even the staffers of Afghan consulate in Peshawar were detained and later on released by diplomatic interventions.

Yet after the tense period, relations turned somehow into normalcy where Kabul and Islamabad are making efforts to cement bilateral ties more and more. But as far as the status of Afghan refugees in Iran is concerned, they live the worst and miserable life, always prone to political exploitations. Last year, reports surfaced in media that Iranian government has started recruiting Afghan refugees for its war in Syria and now reports are doing rounds that Tehran has started using Afghan refugees in its proxy war in the Middle East.

Protesters in a demonstration in Kabul said that Tehran has been exploiting Afghan refugees’ miseries for its own political benefits and forcing them to join its proxy wars. The Iranian government should realize that no country had the right to exploit refugee’s miseries. Previously there had been several complaints regarding sending of Afghan refugee to Syria by Iran. Since the conflict began in Syria three years ago, Iran had played a vital role by funding, training, arming and sending foot soldiers in favor of President Bashar al-Assad regime. Unfortunately Afghan refugees were being sent there by Iranian government for a $500 per month, school registration for their children and charity card were granted to them. Iran wanted to help Assad stand the ground in Syria war. Even some Afghans were captured by rival forces? But what for?  Now when Afghan government declared its support to Saudi Arabia in its anti-Houthi campaign in Yemen, Iranian government wants to use Afghan refugees in its proxy wars in the Middle East. The entire Muslim world is at tenterhooks over what is happening in Yemen between Saudi Arabia and Iran as it may potentially divide the already divided Muslim world but this time on sectarian lines. Therefore the war should immediately be stopped and there should be a way out through dialogues.

Recently Iran President Hassan Rouhani said that war and bloodshed must stop in Yemen and complete ceasefire should be established. It’s the standpoint of Iranian government toward Yemen war, but it is not fair to use Afghan refugees in its wars in Middle East. First Iran sent Afghans to Syria and now it wants to send Afghans to Yemen.

It is worth mentioning that Iran was accused of supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen in toppling President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government.  It seems that Tehran is trying to dominate the region while potentially igniting Sunni-Shiite conflict in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and Iran are beigest rivals, and Afghanistan has friendly relations with both countries. Now when Iran is trying to use Afghan refugees, the National Unity Government in Afghanistan should immediately take steps and call upon Tehran for clarification. The plight of refugees should put a full stop not only in Iran but in Pakistan as well.  According to UNHCR’s mandate Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan constitute the largest refugee population. A 2014 survey by UNHCR showed that Pakistan hosts 1,615,876 refugees and Iran hosts 840,158. Majority of Afghans took refuge in both countries since fleeing the Soviet War in Afghanistan during the 1980s.

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