Iranian Internet users are circulating a video that shows what appears to be an Iranian police officer insulting and abusing a group of Afghans. Our Observer says this shocking footage underscores the fact that Afghans regularly suffer discrimination in Iran.

In the video, a man, off camera, insults a group of Afghans as they do grueling physical exercises in a parking lot. In Persian, he calls them “cows”, and then addresses a few of the men individually. “Am I a good person? Do you like me?” he asks a young man. “Yes, I like you”, the young man replies, visibly under duress. “I like you too. You’re a very good boy,” he continues. “How old are you?” The young man answers: “Eighteen.” “How long have you been in Iran?” “Not long. This is the first time.” "Where were you arrested?" The young man's answer is inaudible. He then asks similar questions of several other men, before asking the whole group to say “I love you, sergeant”. They comply, and he makes them repeat this more loudly, before replying “I love you too!” and ordering them to do more exercises.

The video first started circulating on Facebook a few days ago, but it is impossible to tell precisely when or where it was filmed. Given the type of vehicles parked in the lot, as well as the clothing of the police officers walking in the background, it is clear it was filmed in Iran. The location is likely a police station or a detention camp for Afghan migrants.

Several Iranian media sites – including one linked to the Revolutionary Guards – have written about the video, condemning the abuse and calling for the culprits to be identified and punished.

“With cases of abuse getting shared on social networks, anti-Iran sentiment is rising in Afghanistan”

Mossadegh Pars is Afghan. He lives in Kabul, where he is a student. He lived in Iran when he was younger and has many friends that live there.

Due to all the problems in Afghanistan – the insecurity, unemployment and lack of basic resources like water and electricity – many Afghans are forced to immigrate to neighboring countries like Pakistan and Iran. Most of the Afghans who speak Persian choose Iran. Sadly, most of them tell sad stories of being insulted and abused. They say that the Iranian people are generally kind, but that the authorities are another matter. And unfortunately, in the past years, with cases of abuse getting shared on social networks, anti-Iran sentiment is rising in Afghanistan.

To start with, Afghans – whether they come in illegally or legally – don’t have the same rights as everybody else in Iran. They are limited in their movements. They aren’t allowed to own motor vehicles, and special permissions are required if they want to travel throughout the country. They can’t live wherever they want, either – some cities, like Rasht and others, in particular in the north, have banned Afghans from settling within their borders.
“Abuse is particularly common in camps where Afghan migrants are detained before being deported”

Education isn’t accessible to all Afghan children, either. Only children of Afghans who are in the country legally are allowed to enroll in school. But some of these children find themselves banned from schools in certain cities. And if a child is born in Iran to two Afghan parents who are in Iran illegally, the child is stateless and isn’t allowed to enroll in school.

Abuse by police is common, in particular in camps where Afghan migrants are detained before being deported. Many cases, including beatings and humiliation, have been reported there [Editor’s Note: including by Human Rights Watch] But it isn’t just low-ranking police officers who discriminate against Afghans; it’s at the highest level. The former president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, once described Afghans as “guests who want to kick their host out of their house”.

Afghans are also executed at a very high rate in Iran, mostly on drug related-charges [Editor’s Note: this includes juveniles as young as 15]. The punishment is completely disproportionate to the alleged offenses. And Afghans who have nothing to do with the drug trade are often pegged as drug dealers.

It is really sad to see the relationships between our people deteriorating, since Iran and Afghanistan have such a close history and culture.

The Iranian authorities estimate that 1.4 million Afghans total live in the country, and recently announced plans to deport 760,000.