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Behind the Curtain | Afghans To Be Expelled from Iranian Tourism Province

by ARASH KARAMI and NEGAR MORTAZAVI

26 Apr 2012 22:23Comments
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Afghan family being deported (ISNA/Amir Pourmand).

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Arash Karami is a frequent Tehran Bureau contributor. Negar Mortazavi is an Iranian journalist based in Washington, D.C.
[ blog ] Afghan nationals will be expelled from the northern Iranian province of Mazandaran in the coming months. According to government officials all Afghans, with or without legal status, have been given a deadline to leave the province; those who fail to depart by the deadline will be arrested and expelled. Mazandaran, on the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, is a major tourist destination. Many upper-class Tehran families own resorts and villas in the province. Mazandaran officials have expressed their concern for the safety of tourists as the tourism season starts and have stated their belief that this legislation will ensure public safety. According to government statistics, over 3,000 Afghan nationals in Mazandaran were arrested and deported last year.

Mazandaran is not the first province to announce such legislation directed at Afghan immigrants. Gilan, Lorestan, Hamedan, and Kermanshah have also banned or put restrictions on Afghan nationals. Last month, police officials in Isfahan announced that Afghan citizens would be barred from entering city parks during the Nowruz holidays. However, the move sparked such intense criticism that police officials were forced to back down from confronting park attendees.

According to official statistics, Iran is home to over a million Afghan refugees. The Iranian government has been struggling to absorb the influx of immigrants who have been coming in waves from Afghanistan since the Soviet invasion in the 1980s. Many have taken on jobs in construction or other forms of manual labor. Crimes committed by Afghans nationals are heavily publicized, generating anti-Afghan sentiment across Iranian society. On the other hand, discriminatory government policies, such as the law that bans Afghan children, even those born in Iran, from attending school, have been widely condemned.

Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan have recently reached an agreement on Afghan refugees that allows Afghan nationals to remain in Iran and Pakistan until 2017. According to Fars News, "voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees from Iran has slowed in recent years in the face of poor security and economic conditions in Afghanistan, which Tehran blames on the U.S.-led invasion of the country in 2001."

Copyright © 2012 Arash Karami and Negar Mortazavi

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