Afghans allege Iran police involved in attacks on refugees

A man walks past a painting on a wall with writing in the Dari Language reading "We cannot breath" during a protest themed Killings of Afghans in Iran in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, June 15, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 15 June 2020

Afghans allege Iran police involved in attacks on refugees

KABUL: An Afghan lawmaker accused Iranian authorities on Monday of involvement in recent attacks on Afghan refugees in Iran, incidents that have sparked protest rallies in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The lawmaker, Abdul Sattar Husseini, told The Associated Press that he is part of a government team investigating complaints that authorities in Iran had mistreated Afghans living there, including in an incident earlier this month in Yazd province when three Afghans died after their vehicle was shot at — allegedly by police — and set on fire.
In another incident, a large group of Afghan migrants was captured by Iranian border police last month, he said. Some from the group who got away later recounted that at least two dozen among them were allegedly pushed into a river by Iranian policemen and drowned. Tehran has vehemently dismissed the allegations.
More than 1 million Afghans live as refugees in Iran having fled four decades of war in their homeland. Iran has been accused of forcing Afghans back across the border into Afghanistan.
Also, a graffiti has surfaced in Kabul to protest the Yazd deaths, inscribed with the words “We can’t breathe” in the Dari language — a homage to the last words of George Floyd, the African American who died when a white police officer knelt on his neck, killing him. The slaying has sent shock waves across the world and sparked protests against racism and police brutality.
The International Office of Migration says more than 200,000 Afghans have returned from Iran since the beginning of the year. Iran has since recorded the highest number of coronavirus infections, over 189,000 and 8,950 deaths. Afghanistan has reported over 25,000 cases and 482 deaths although health officials and aid organizations fear the toll is much higher as little testing is being done.
The Yazd incident sparked protests earlier this month in Kabul, outside the Iranian Embassy, and there have also been similar rallies in several European cities and Canada.
Husseini, the lawmaker, said the government team would present a report later this week to Parliament. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Sunday that a delegation would go to Iran to have a larger discussion about the living condition of Afghan refugees in Iran and ways to improve the ties between the two neighbors.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said Monday that the Afghan ambassador to Iran had been summoned and told that Tehran considers the rally outside the Iranian Embassy in Kabul destructive.
Mousavi said Tehran is cooperating with Kabul to “to answer questions and clear up obscurities,” and claimed some, including the foreign media, are “taking advantage of this situation.”
Afghan Najibullah Kabuli, one of the organizers of the Kabul protest, said the demonstrators sought an independent inquiry into the incidents involving Afghans living in Iran.
“We are not satisfied with the efforts of the Afghan government,” said Kabuli.


Abbas poll decree lifts hopes of Palestinian unity

Updated 1 min 48 sec ago

Abbas poll decree lifts hopes of Palestinian unity

  • First elections in 15 years “will usher in badly needed democracy”
  • The PA will hold legislative elections on May 22 and a presidential vote on July 31

AMMAN: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s announcement of the first parliamentary and presidential elections in 15 years has raised hopes of an end to longstanding divisions, but skeptics doubt it will bring about serious change.
According to decrees issued by the presidential office on Friday, the Palestinian Authority, which has limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, will hold legislative elections on May 22 and a presidential vote on July 31.
Hanna Naser, head of the Palestinian Central Elections Commission, told a packed press conference a day earlier that the decrees will usher in a badly needed democratic process.
Naser said the elections will be transparent and will deliver a functioning legislative council, adding: “After 15 years without a legislative body, it is important to have accountability through a council elected by the people.”
Jibril Rajoub, secretary of the Fatah movement and a key force behind the election deal, said on Palestine TV that the decrees are a major breakthrough and reflect a Palestinian commitment to democratic principles.
Rajoub said that the elections commission will be responsible for all aspects of the poll, and that a meeting of all Palestinian factions next week in Cairo will help resolve any remaining issues.
Hussein Sheikh, minister of civil affairs and member of the Fatah Central Committee, tweeted that the presidential decrees are “an important step to strengthen democracy and partnership in a unified political regime that ensures the end of the split and will create a unified vision for a cooperative effort aimed at ending the occupation and accomplishing freedom and liberty for our people.”
Hamas welcomed the decrees, which include a commitment by all participants that the PLO represents Palestinians, and is responsible for foreign affairs and negotiations.
The decrees stipulate elections for a 132-member legislative council that will include Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza on a full proportional basis.
Presidential elections will follow in July and the Palestine National Council will hold elections wherever possible for candidates in different locations. All lists must have a woman as the third and fourth candidates on the list, with at least 26 percent of the next council to be female.
However, Ghassan Khatib, a lecturer at Bir Zeit University and a former minister, told Arab News that while he strongly supports the elections, he is worried about the quality of the poll.
“I am concerned that the elections will reflect the wishes of the political elite since the lists will be national and will be made up by political leaders who might not give enough attention to local communities and their needs,” he said.
Khatib, who founded the Jerusalem Center for Communication Studies, said that polls show Fatah could win the coming elections if it can present a unified list.
Hani Masri, director of the Masarat think tank, said that holding elections before national reconciliation is complete is a “formula for trouble.”
“Issuing presidential decrees for elections before reconciliation is doing things in reverse order,” he said. “To have elections, the land mines must be removed. If we don’t address some of these problems, we are inviting trouble,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
One suggestion to overcome this issue has been that the two main parties, Fatah and Hamas, agree on a joint list and a single nominee for president.
Marwan Muasher, vice president of Carnegie Endowment for International Studies, told Arab News that national unity is a necessary first step.
“National elections serve to renew Palestinian legitimacy, which has been significantly affected,” he said.
Palestinians are also unsure if Israel will allow East Jerusalem residents to take part in the elections. Under the Oslo accords, Jerusalem residents can vote at local post offices.