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Editorial: Turn the tide of bitter optics!

June 20 marks the World Refugee Day, a day most significant for Afghanistan to raise awareness of the situation of Afghans who are enduring hardships within and without the country. According to official figures of the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, more than 6.5 million Afghans are refugees overseas as the war continues to drive and purge them away. Of the figure, an overwhelming majority has settled in Iran and Pakistan – our neighboring countries who have always been disgusted by Afghans and thus have condescendingly treated our citizens. A case in point is what happened a few weeks earlier. A vehicle carrying 13 Afghans caught fire in the Yazd province of Iran after it was shot at by police, an incident in which three persons were killed and five others injured and some people went missing. Sadly, graphic and horrific footage showed a boy with burns on parts of his body begging for water, something that aroused new anger weeks after Iranian border guards killed 20 Afghan migrant workers by forcing them at gunpoint into a mountain torrent on the border. These actions brought the neighboring country under question regarding abusing the rights of refugees and violating norms of good-neighborliness. Fierce protests followed all over Afghanistan but the Iranian government took a severe exception to them and summoned the Afghan Ambassador in Tehran, threatening that such demonstrations would risk denting bilateral ties. In a recent development, Afghanistan Acting Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar was scheduled to head a powerful delegation to Iran on Sunday. His visit is said to be aimed at addressing recent adverse events, search ways to stop a repeat of such incidents, strengthen and expand co-operation, and facilitate comprehensive negotiations between the two countries. It’s hoped that this visit is not a symbolic one just like the probes that were launched into the tragic incidents. Meanwhile, the delegation is well-advised to give priority to and focus more on the issues of migrants and refugees more than anything else. Iran should be asked to alter its way of looking at Afghans and if not for the sake of Islam, neighborliness, the country should do it while keeping in view human rights. Otherwise, one day the world would ultimately hold it accountable and its miseries, stemming from US sanctions, would only exacerbate. Thus, the best the delegation could do on the occasion of World Refugee Day for Afghans is work on some practical assurances – probably in a written form – from the country. In this manner, the uncertainties and ambiguity for future conduct and cooperation would be resolved between the countries. In terms of bilateral relations, they in large measure depend on good-neighborliness. So if Iran wants to maintain them as such, it should turn the tide of current bitter optics into positive.

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