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Behind the Curtain | Afghan Nationals in Iran Targeted with Restrictive Policy

by ARASH KARAMI and NEGAR MORTAZAVI

02 Jul 2012 23:38Comments
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Afghan immigrants in Torbat-e Heydarieh, northeastern Iran (Afghanpaper.com).

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Arash Karami is a frequent Tehran Bureau contributor. Negar Mortazavi is an Iranian journalist based in Washington, D.C.
[ blog ] The opposition Kaleme website has reported that officials in Fars and other unidentified provinces around Iran have asked business owners to check the residency status of foreign nationals before allowing them to purchase goods and services. Bakeries, taxis, and grocery stores will soon be expected to verify the legal resident status of their customers. Those who are unable to provide satisfactory documents will be denied service. One official even called on ordinary citizens to check other people's IDs because of "health concerns" -- it is not clear under what circumstances it would be considered suitable to conduct such checks.

The term "foreign nationals" is typically understood as a reference to Afghan residents of Iran. Approximately three million legal and illegal Afghan migrants currently live in the country. Most work in low-paying jobs and regularly face various forms of discrimination. In March, Afghan nationals were denied entrance into parks in Isfahan for the New Year's festival. In April, government officials announced that all Afghan nationals had been given a deadline to leave the heavily touristed northern province of Mazandaran.

Legislation or decrees meant to restrict the movement of Afghan nationals and their access to education and other services are typically given a silent nod of approval by most Iranian citizens. However, some social media users have been critical of the new measures, which have been described as irresponsible and draconian.

Copyright © 2012 Arash Karami and Negar Mortazavi

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