Afghans in Iran

Afghans in Iran

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Afghans in Iran are mostly refugees who fled Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 during the 1980s Soviet war
Soviet war in Afghanistan
The Soviet war in Afghanistan was a nine-year conflict involving the Soviet Union, supporting the Marxist-Leninist government of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan against the Afghan Mujahideen and foreign "Arab–Afghan" volunteers...

 as well as diplomats, trader
Trader
The term Trader can refer to:* Merchant, retailer or one who attempts to generally buy wholesale and sell later at a profit* Trader , someone who buys and sells financial instruments such as stocks, bonds, derivatives, etc....

s, businessperson
Businessperson
A businessperson is someone involved in a particular undertaking of activities for the purpose of generating revenue from a combination of human, financial, or physical capital. An entrepreneur is an example of a business person...

s, workers, exchange students
Student exchange program
A student exchange program generally could be defined as a program where students from secondary school or university choose to study abroad in partner institutions...

, tourists
Tourism
Tourism is travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes".Tourism has become a...

 and other visitors. As of March 2009, nearly 1 million Afghan nationals were reported to be living in Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

. The ones designated as refugees are under the protection and care of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees , also known as The UN Refugee Agency is a United Nations agency mandated to protect and support refugees at the request of a government or the UN itself and assists in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to...

 (UNHCR), and provided legal status by the Government of Iran. However, they cannot obtain Iranian citizenship
Iranian nationality law
Iranian nationality law contains principles of both jus sanguinis and jus soli. Children acquire nationality of Iran through their fathers, but not their mothers...

 or permanent residency
Permanent residency
Permanent residency refers to a person's visa status: the person is allowed to reside indefinitely within a country of which he or she is not a citizen. A person with such status is known as a permanent resident....

, and live in Iran under time-limited condition of stay.

Although Iran opened its border gates to the fleeing Afghans from the Soviet war in Afghanistan
Soviet war in Afghanistan
The Soviet war in Afghanistan was a nine-year conflict involving the Soviet Union, supporting the Marxist-Leninist government of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan against the Afghan Mujahideen and foreign "Arab–Afghan" volunteers...

 and the subsequent civil war
Civil war in Afghanistan
The Afghan civil war began when the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan took power in a military coup, known as the Saur Revolution, on 27 April 1978. Most of Afghanistan subsequently experienced uprisings against the unpopular Marxist-Leninist PDPA government. The Soviet Union...

, the current Iranian government
Politics of Iran
The politics of Iran take place in a framework of theocracy guided by an Islamist ideology. The December 1979 constitution, and its 1989 amendment, define the political, economic, and social order of the Islamic Republic of Iran, declaring that Shi'a Islam of the Twelver school of thought is...

 under President
President of Iran
The President of Iran is the highest popularly elected official in, and the head of government of the Islamic Republic of Iran; although subordinate to the Supreme Leader of Iran, who functions as the country's head of state...

 Ahmadinejad has been aggressive toward them in recent years. About 100,000 Afghans were forcibly deported in 2007. In May 2010, a number of Afghans were executed by being hanged
Hanging
Hanging is the lethal suspension of a person by a ligature. The Oxford English Dictionary states that hanging in this sense is "specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck", though it formerly also referred to crucifixion and death by impalement in which the body would remain...

 in the streets of Iran, which sparked angry demonstrations in Afghanistan.

Political history and migration


As neighbouring countries with cultural links, there has been a long history of population movements between Iran and Afghanistan. Southern Afghanistan was governed by the Persian
Persian people
The Persian people are part of the Iranian peoples who speak the modern Persian language and closely akin Iranian dialects and languages. The origin of the ethnic Iranian/Persian peoples are traced to the Ancient Iranian peoples, who were part of the ancient Indo-Iranians and themselves part of...

 Safavid dynasty
Safavid dynasty
The Safavid dynasty was one of the most significant ruling dynasties of Iran. They ruled one of the greatest Persian empires since the Muslim conquest of Persia and established the Twelver school of Shi'a Islam as the official religion of their empire, marking one of the most important turning...

 until 1709 when the Hotaki Afghans, under Mirwais Hotak declared it independent after a number of wars with Persia.

The Khorasan Province of Iran was controlled by the Durrani Empire
Durrani Empire
The Durrani Empire was a Pashtun dynasty centered in Afghanistan and included northeastern Iran, the Kashmir region, the modern state of Pakistan, and northwestern India. It was established at Kandahar in 1747 by Ahmad Shah Durrani, an Afghan military commander under Nader Shah of Persia and chief...

 (Afghan Empire) until the late 18th century when Mohammad Khan Qajar
Mohammad Khan Qajar
Agha Muḥammad Khān Qājār ‎‎ was the chief of the Qajar tribe, succeeding his father Mohammad Hassan Khan, who was killed on the orders of Adil Shah. He became the Emperor/Shah of Persia in 1794 and established the Qajar dynasty...

, founder of the Qajar dynasty
Qajar dynasty
The Qajar dynasty was an Iranian royal family of Turkic descent who ruled Persia from 1785 to 1925....

, annexed it with Iran. During the early 19th century, the Persians invaded Afghanistan on a number of occasions but the Afghans managed to repel the invaders. In 1850s, when Persian forces invaded western Afghanistan, communities made up of 2,000 and 5,000 households of ethnic Hazaras were formed in Jam and Bakharz
Bakharz
Bakharz is a city in and the capital of Bakharz County, in Razavi Khorasan Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 6,854, in 1,661 families....

.

During the 1880-1901 reign of Amir
Emir
Emir , meaning "commander", "general", or "prince"; also transliterated as Amir, Aamir or Ameer) is a title of high office, used throughout the Muslim world...

 Abdur Rahman Khan
Abdur Rahman Khan
Abdur Rahman Khan was Emir of Afghanistan from 1880 to 1901.The third son of Mohammad Afzal Khan, and grandson of Dost Mohammad Khan, Abdur Rahman Khan was considered a strong ruler who re-established the writ of the Afghan government in Kabul after the disarray that followed the second...

, Sunni
Sunni Islam
Sunni Islam is the largest branch of Islam. Sunni Muslims are referred to in Arabic as ʾAhl ūs-Sunnah wa āl-Ǧamāʿah or ʾAhl ūs-Sunnah for short; in English, they are known as Sunni Muslims, Sunnis or Sunnites....

 repression against Shi'as
Shi'a Islam in Afghanistan
Shi'a Islam in Afghanistan makes up 10-19% of the total population of the state, while the remaining 80-89% practice Sunni Islam.Many of the Pamir language speakers of the northeastern portion of the country are followers of the Nizari Ismaili sect, while majority of the Hazara people, the third...

 led to intensified flight in Afghanistan by the largely Shia Hazara people; roughly 15,000 families totaling 168,000 people settled at Torbat Jam near Mashhad
Mashhad
Mashhad , is the second largest city in Iran and one of the holiest cities in the Shia Muslim world. It is also the only major Iranian city with an Arabic name. It is located east of Tehran, at the center of the Razavi Khorasan Province close to the borders of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. Its...

. Afghan migrant workers, pilgrims and merchants, who settled in Iran over the years, had by the early 20th century, become large enough to be officially classified as their own ethnic group, referred to variously as Khavari or Barbari. Young Hazara men have embraced migrant work in Iran and other Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

 states in order to save money for marriage and become independent; such work has even come to be seen as a "rite of passage". Such migration intensified in the early 1970s due to famine, and by 1978, there were an estimated several hundred thousand Afghan migrant workers in Iran.

The Soviet war in Afghanistan
Soviet war in Afghanistan
The Soviet war in Afghanistan was a nine-year conflict involving the Soviet Union, supporting the Marxist-Leninist government of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan against the Afghan Mujahideen and foreign "Arab–Afghan" volunteers...

, which erupted in 1979, was the beginning of a series of major waves of refugee flight from Afghanistan. Those who came to Iran augmented the ranks of migrant workers already there. The new Islamic Republic
Iranian Revolution
The Iranian Revolution refers to events involving the overthrow of Iran's monarchy under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and its replacement with an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the...

 of Iran recognized all Afghan migrants as refugees. They issued them "blue cards" to denote their status, entitling them to free primary and secondary education, as well as subsidized healthcare and food. However, the government maintained some restrictions on their employment, namely prohibiting them from owning their own businesses or working as street vendors.

Most of the early academic attention on these new immigrants was focused on ethnically Pashtun
Pashtun people
Pashtuns or Pathans , also known as ethnic Afghans , are an Eastern Iranic ethnic group with populations primarily between the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan and the Indus River in Pakistan...

 Afghan refugees in Pakistan
Afghans in Pakistan
Afghans in Pakistan are mostly refugees who fled Afghanistan during the 1980s Soviet war as well as diplomats, traders, businesspersons, workers, exchange students, tourists and other visitors. As of March 2009, some 1.7 million registered Afghan nationals were reported to be living in Pakistan,...

. Studies on Afghans in Iran came later due to the political situation during the Iran–Iraq War. By 1992, a report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees , also known as The UN Refugee Agency is a United Nations agency mandated to protect and support refugees at the request of a government or the UN itself and assists in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to...

 (UNHCR) estimated that there were around 2.8 million Afghans in Iran. Just 10% were housed in refugee camps; most settled in or near urban areas. For their efforts in housing and educating these refugees, the Iranian government received little financial aid from the international community. With the fall of the Najibullah
Mohammad Najibullah
Mohammad Najibullah Ahmadzai , originally merely Najibullah, was the fourth and last President of the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. He is also considered the second President of the Republic of Afghanistan.-Early years:Najibullah was born in August 1947 to the Ahmadzai...

 government of Afghanistan in 1992, Iran began efforts to encourage refugees to repatriate
Repatriation
Repatriation is the process of returning a person back to one's place of origin or citizenship. This includes the process of returning refugees or soldiers to their place of origin following a war...

. During these years, there were many cases of refugees being harassed by Iranian law enforcement officers. Legal residents had their identity cards confiscated and exchanged with temporary residency permits of one-month validity, at the expiry of which they were expected to have left Iran and have repatriated.

UNHCR repatriation program


Since early 2002, more than 5 million Afghans have been repatriated through the UNHCR from both Pakistan and Iran back to their native country, Afghanistan. 935,600 were still remaining according to the UNHCR. Between 2010 and 2011, a total of 24,000 Afghan refugees left Iran and returned to Afghanistan.

Social life and other issues



The Afghan refugees have come to Iran since the 1980s, which included children and adolescents. Many were born in Iran over the last 30 years but unable to gain citizenship due to the Iranian law on immigration. The refugees include Hazaras, Pashtuns
Pashtun people
Pashtuns or Pathans , also known as ethnic Afghans , are an Eastern Iranic ethnic group with populations primarily between the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan and the Indus River in Pakistan...

, Tajiks, and other ethnic groups of Afghanistan
Ethnic groups in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is a multiethnic society. The population of the country is divided into a wide variety of ethnolinguistic groups. The ethnic groups of the country are as follow: Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Aimak, Turkmen, Baloch, Pashai, Nuristani, Arab, Brahui, Pamiri and some others.-Ethnic...

. One UNHCR paper claims that nearly half the documented refugees are Hazara, a primarily Shi'a group.

In Afghanistan, some people feel that using birth control violates the tenets of their religion
Religious views on birth control
Religious adherents vary widely in their views on birth control. This can be true even between different branches of one faith, as in the case of Judaism...

; however, in Iran, attitudes are far different, due to the country's extensive promotion of family planning
Family planning in Iran
The Republic of Iran has a comprehensive and effective program of family planning. While Iran's population grew at a rate of more than 3%/year between 1956 and 1986, the growth rate began to decline in the late 1980s and early 1990s after the government initiated a major population control program...

. Afghans in Iran have moved closer to mainstream Iranian values in this regard; the Iranian influence has even filtered back into Afghanistan. One study in Khorasan has found that while overall fertility rates for Afghan migrant women are somewhat higher than those for Iranian women there—3.9 vs. 3.6—the similarity hides significant age-related differences in fertility, with older Afghan migrant women having a far higher number of children than older Iranian urban women, while younger Afghan migrant women's number of children appears to be approaching the far-lower Iranian urban norm. Contraceptive usage among the same study group was 55%, higher than for local Iranian women.

More broadly, the same conservative men who resisted aggressive attempts by communist governments in Afghanistan to expand women's education and their role in the economy, are now faced with the precise changes from which they had hoped to shield their families. Even more ironically, this shift in family and gender roles was induced by the experience of living as refugees in largely Muslim society.

Thousands of Afghan men married Iranian women during their residence in Iran; however, under Iranian nationality law
Iranian nationality law
Iranian nationality law contains principles of both jus sanguinis and jus soli. Children acquire nationality of Iran through their fathers, but not their mothers...

, the children of such marriages are not recognised as Iranian citizens, and it is also more difficult for the men to gain Iranian citizenship than for Afghan women married to Iranian men.

In popular culture


Since the 1980s, a number of Iranian movies set in Iran have featured Afghan immigrant characters. One early example is Mohsen Makhmalbaf
Mohsen Makhmalbaf
Mohsen Makhmalbaf is an Iranian film director, writer, editor, and producer. During 2007 he was the president of Asian Film Academy.Makhmalbaf's films have been widely presented in international film festivals in the past ten years. The multi-award-winning director, belongs to the new wave...

's 1988 movie The Bicyclist
The Bicyclist
-Plot:Nasim, a poor Afghan refugee in Iran, gives a demonstration in his town's square where he rides his bicycle without stopping for seven days and seven nights, with the aim of raising money for life-saving surgery for his dying wife. In the end, even after seven days, he continues to pedal...

, in which the character of the title, a former Afghan cycling champion, gives a demonstration in his town's square where he rides his bicycle without stopping for seven days and seven nights, with the aim of raising money for life-saving surgery for his son. In the end, even after seven days, he continues to pedal endlessly, too fatigued to hear his son's pleas to get off his bicycle. One scholar analyses the film as an allegory
Allegory
Allegory is a demonstrative form of representation explaining meaning other than the words that are spoken. Allegory communicates its message by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation...

 which parallels the exploitation that Afghan refugees suffer from in Iran and from which they are unable to escape.

Other notable films with Afghan characters include Jafar Panahi
Jafar Panahi
Jafar Panahi is an Iranian filmmaker and is one of the most influential filmmakers in the Iranian New Wave movement. He has gained recognition from film theorists and critics worldwide and received numerous awards including the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and the Silver Bear at the...

's 1996 The White Balloon, Abbas Kiarostami
Abbas Kiarostami
Abbas Kiarostami is an internationally acclaimed Iranian film director, screenwriter, photographer and film producer. An active filmmaker since 1970, Kiarostami has been involved in over forty films, including shorts and documentaries...

's 1997 A Taste of Cherry, Majid Majidi
Majid Majidi
Majid Majidi is an internationally and critically acclaimed Iranian film director, film producer, and screenwriter. Majidi's films have touched on many themes and genres and he has won many international awards.-Biography:...

's 2000 Baran
Baran (film)
Baran is a 2001 Iranian film directed by Majid Majidi, based on an original script by Majid Majidi. The movie is set during recent times in which there are a large number of Afghan refugees living on the outskirts of Tehran...

, and Bahram Bayzai
Bahram Bayzai
Bahrām Beyzāi is an Iranian film director, theatre director, screenwriter, playwright, film editor, producer, and researcher....

's 2001 Sagkoshi.

Notable people



  • Jalaleddin Farsi
    Jalaleddin Farsi
    Jaleleddin Farsi , born as Hekmatollah Baaraan-Cheshmeh, was the presidential candidate for the Islamic Republic Party in the first presidential election in Iran. He was chosen because Ayatollah Khomeini had personally forbidden the party from running Mohammad Beheshti, a cleric, for president...

    , former candidate for the presidency of Iran
    President of Iran
    The President of Iran is the highest popularly elected official in, and the head of government of the Islamic Republic of Iran; although subordinate to the Supreme Leader of Iran, who functions as the country's head of state...

    , born to an Afghan father
  • Valy, Afghan singer born in Mashhad
    Mashhad
    Mashhad , is the second largest city in Iran and one of the holiest cities in the Shia Muslim world. It is also the only major Iranian city with an Arabic name. It is located east of Tehran, at the center of the Razavi Khorasan Province close to the borders of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. Its...

  • Mohammad Fazel Lankarani, late Iranian
    Iran
    Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

    cleric was maternally Afghan.

External links