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Iranian deputy FM draws flak for Kabul critique in migrants’ drowning incident  (www.arabnews.com)

KABUL: A day after Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sayed Abbas Araghchi accused Kabul of having “no control over the border,” several analysts and lawmakers told Arab News on Monday that Tehran could no longer hide its “cruelty” or “cover the crime.”

“The problem is that there aren’t any border outposts … no border control from Afghanistan; all control is by our side. The problem is that Afghan nationals have illegal roaming,” Araghchi said during an interview with an Afghan private TV station on Sunday.

His comments were in reference to an incident on May 1 wherein 46 Afghan migrants were detained by Iran’s border security forces after having illegally crossed into the country.

After being detained, they were beaten and eventually forced to jump into the Harirud River at gunpoint. The river, in the Herat province in Afghanistan, lies along the border with Iran.

“It was human traffickers who forced them (Afghan nationals) to cross the river because they did not want to return their money,” Araghchi said in the same interview.

He added that “the probe by Iran has to finalize,” before he rejected the Afghan government’s account that Iranian border forces were responsible for the drowning incident.

Aragchi’s rejection of the involvement of Iranian forces in the incident and his comments on the purported weakness of the Afghan government drew stern criticism from experts and officials.

“They cannot hide their cruelty this way. Afghans will never forget what Iranian forces did to our migrants,” Abdul Sattar Husseini, a lawmaker from western Afghanistan, told Arab News.

Nasratullah Haqpal, an analyst, said Iran has long mistreated Afghan migrants.

“What Iran’s deputy minister said is a total lie. He is trying to cover the crime that Iran has committed,” he told Arab News.

The incident had led to Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission launching a separate probe, following which it confirmed Kabul’s accounts. Iran promised to investigate from its side, too.

More than two months since the drowning incident, however, the Foreign Ministry said it had yet to receive the results of the investigation launched by Tehran.

“Araghchi said that the investigation is ongoing. We are still waiting to receive its results,” Gran Hewad, a spokesman for the Afghan Foreign Ministry, told Arab News, adding that Afghanistan, for its part, “will boost the frontier areas and prevent illegal crossing.”

The incident sparked new tensions between the two countries, which have historically uneasy ties, particularly in recent years with regard to Iran’s stern opposition to the presence of US troops in Afghanistan. 

In return, some Afghans accuse Tehran of arming the Taliban and using Afghan Shiite migrants in Iran for its proxy wars in the Middle East.

The drowning incident was followed by the killing of three other Afghan migrants three weeks later after Iran’s police in the Yazd province fired at a car, claiming that the driver refused to stop for a routine police check.

The two events sparked anti-Iranian protests in Kabul and among Afghans living overseas, resulting in the burning of several images and effigies of Iranian leaders.

A few days later, Iran summoned the Afghan envoy, demanding a halt to the protests, with officials from both countries finally agreeing to work toward legalizing the presence of the nearly three million Afghan migrants living in Iran.

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