Afghans on the Turkish-Iranian escape route endure torture, killings and forced repatriation

A report released today by Amnesty International notes that scores of refugees have been shot to death or injured. Women and children have also been targeted. Some unarmed people have been shot in the back trying to climb over border walls.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – Amnesty International released a report today detailing abuses and violence inflicted upon Afghan refugees along routes followed by tens of thousands of desperate people fleeing the Taliban.

According to the human rights organisation, at border crossings with Iran and Turkey, many have faced arbitrary detention, shooting, and forced repatriation. Iranian and Turkish security forces have repeatedly pushed back Afghans trying to cross the borders, unlawfully and without any justification firing on men, women, and children.

The report is based on interviews conduced last March with at least 74 Afghans fleeing their country. Some 48 said that they were fired upon when they tried to cross borders.

“Iranian security forces have unlawfully killed and injured dozens of Afghans since last August, including by firing repeatedly into packed cars,” said Marie Forestier, researcher on Refugee and Migrants Rights at Amnesty International. “Turkish border guards have also unlawfully used live ammunition against Afghans”.

Amnesty International spoke with the relatives of six men and a 16-year-old boy, killed by Iranian security forces as they tried to cross into Iran between April 2021 and January 2022.

In total, the organisation documented 11 killings by Iranian security forces, without any regard for their rights. In some cases, refugees were shot in the back as they climbed over walls, crawled under fences, or just walked.

Some of those who managed to cross the borders say they were victims of torture and arbitrary detention in Turkey, and then forcibly sent back to Afghanistan.

For Marie Forestier, “Turkish and Iranian authorities” must “immediately end all pushbacks and deportations of Afghans, end torture and other ill-treatment, and ensure safe passage and access to asylum procedures for all Afghans seeking protection.”

This must be accompanied by the economic and financial support from the international community to the countries that receive refugees, such as Turkey and Iran.

The issue of Afghan refugees – who travel on highly risky routes through Iran and Turkey in an attempt to reach Europe, the United States or Australia – continues to be a source of great concern a year after the Taliban returned to power.

In recent months, several cases of abuse and deaths have been reported, like that of a migrant woman who froze to death crossing the Turkish border.

A source told AsiaNews that "many people" have died along the border in a "desperate attempt" to start a new life away from the Taliban who have imposed more rules based on Sharia, Islamic law.