Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Afghans On Iran's Death Row Describe Their Plight

An Afghan man takes empty water bottles from Afghan men in Iranian detention in the southeastern Iranian city of Zahedan (file photo). Afghan officials say more than 5,600 Afghan nationals are in Iranian prisons for alleged drug crimes.
An Afghan man takes empty water bottles from Afghan men in Iranian detention in the southeastern Iranian city of Zahedan (file photo). Afghan officials say more than 5,600 Afghan nationals are in Iranian prisons for alleged drug crimes.
By Michael Hirshman and Farishte Jalalzai
Ahmad, a 16-year-old Afghan jailed in Iran, was arrested for possessing 200 grams of drugs, which he insists were planted on him. Speaking to RFE/RL by telephone from his Iranian jail cell, Ahmad, which is not his real name, says he has virtually no hope of ever getting back home alive.

"I am going to be executed here," he says. "They will for sure execute me, unless officials in Kabul can do something for me."

Ahmad is among six Afghans jailed in Iran for small-scale drug trafficking who have spoken to RFE/RL by phone. All say they are currently awaiting execution.

Given their isolation and the difficulties of reporting in Iran, it is impossible independently to confirm their accounts. In this story, their names have been changed to protect their identities.

Taken together, their stories paint a picture of a woefully inadequate criminal justice system that fails to ensure due process, especially for Afghan nationals.

A common issue emerging from the six accounts is the absence of normal criminal trials. Several of the Afghans say they were never brought to court to confront the charges against them -- a right guaranteed in Iran's constitution and penal code.

It's also a basic legal protection included in the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

According to the men's accounts, Iranian authorities also failed to inform them of even the simplest facts about their cases. Several said their ultimate sentences were not clearly, or even officially, communicated to them.

"I have two wives and my kids back home," says inmate Mohammad. "I have always been suffering in life, and finally ended up here."

The court and its procedures are a mystery to him. "I have never seen the court, but have been notified that I am on death row," he says. "Really, I don't know if that is true or not."

Nowhere To Turn

There are an estimated 1 1/2 million Afghans living in Iran, about one-third of them illegally.

Having left their homeland in most cases for safety or economic reasons, these immigrants labor in Iran at strenuous and poorly compensated jobs -- as gardeners, janitors, construction workers, and street vendors.

Some of them, however, earn a living through the drug trade.

An Afghan delegation to Iran last month said 5,630 Afghans are in prison there for drug crimes. They also say that 3,000 of them have been sentenced to death.

Iranian authorities have described those figures as inaccurate.

But Afghanistan, the world's largest opium producer, shares a 1,000-kilometer border with Iran, and it is through Iran that a considerable part of this drug trade passes -- for international distribution as well as local consumption.

The six prisoners who spoke to RFE/RL were allegedly involved in such trafficking.

The men complain that their consular authorities have failed to offer assistance as their cases progress through Iran's justice system.

"We don't have any hope, even [though] we have a government in Kabul today," says prisoner Rahim, who says he knows many fellow Afghans arrested in Iran. "We see our president on television and we hear he is speaking out for freedom and peace. We want to really appreciate that we have our freedom. [Yet] we Afghans die here in jail and no one knows about it. If [we] committed a crime, then our government must punish us, not the Iranians."

A Common Fate

Iran's harsh drug laws were put in place well before the Islamic revolution of 1979.

The Shah of Iran enacted the strict measures, which make possessing sufficient quantities of drugs punishable by death.

When he was in exile, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who would later found Iran's Islamic Republic, criticized those drug laws as unduly harsh. Decades later, the statutes are still on the books.

Some observers say that Afghans receive the same treatment at the hands of Iran's authorities as ordinary Iranian criminals. A high number of Afghans on Iran's death row, they say, would simply reflect the disproportionate involvement of Afghans in local drug smuggling.

However, the Afghan parliament has claimed that Afghans are being treated unfairly by the Iranian criminal justice system.

Afghan officials say three Afghan prisoners allegedly involved in drug smuggling were executed in Iran in recent weeks. Some Afghan officials have made allegations -- to which Tehran has not officially responded -- that Iran sent the bodies of more than 40 executed Afghan prisoners back to Afghanistan.

Inmate Mohammad says he may soon share their fate.

"They are controlling our phone calls, so we can't really speak with freedom. Yesterday they hanged a friend of mine -- may God have mercy on him -- and I have been notified about myself also. So they are going to hang me also. I am also sentenced to death."

with contributions from RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan and Radio Farda
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: B from: K
April 17, 2010 17:40
wow this is so shocking! How come Afghan authorities aren't doing anything? You can't just execute people and send their bodies back to their countries.
In Response

by: M from: Toronto
April 18, 2010 18:56
In Response

by: JPO from: New York City
April 21, 2010 19:30
These Afghans are criminal drug dealers. Spare all of those under the age 19 and hang the rest!
In Response

by: a from: seattle
April 24, 2010 18:29
aaah its so terrible that drugs are ripping muslim brothers apart. Iran has to have fair trial to make sure these afghans are actually drug dealers, but if they are, some punishment has to be made, right? what that punishment should be is hard to say however :(

by: salena from: arizona
April 18, 2010 18:28
this is injustice!
the iranians are degrading and dehumanizing the poor afghans.
In Response

by: Omar from: Texas
April 20, 2010 06:11
Now imagine an Iran with an Atomic Bomb????! Time for action Pentagon!!!!

by: mori nassiri from: usa california
April 20, 2010 02:48
I believe that the Iranian goverment should send those Afghans back where their belong to Afghans their know what to do with them. And since Iranian are soo ,,,,,cheap and greedy their dont have to feed those Afghans while waiting for their jugement day.

by: Toba from: California
April 25, 2010 20:18
Iranian goverment is so stupid and violent! They need to treat poor Afghan men fairly! They call themselves muslims and that is how they treat their fellow muslim brothers! Those people in Iranian goverment is not even human beings, leave alone being muslims. Also, stupid and corrupted Afghan government needs to stand up for these poor and helpless Afghans!

by: miss kabul from: world
April 26, 2010 14:23
well considering that Radio Free is CIA backed I would say that this news has been exagerrated and made to create Afghan-Iranian hatred....again.
EVERYONE deserves a fair and just trial, drug trafficking is a big problem in Iran as their border Police are very corrupt....they tell these young men that they will get in with drugs with ease....then report them and obviously the drugs get "confiscated" while the young go to jail and await sentencing. Considering how hard the West is trying to make the Iran look like vicious Muslim terrorists.....this report is mere propaganda to cause problems between the two neighbours. I am Afghan and I am Shia, I refuse to point fingers at Iran until more is revealed....Afghan Foreign Ministry have said that the bodies of THREE Afghans have been returned to Herat, after been hanged for drug trafficking....after receiving a TRIAL. Now why would Afghan Ministry claim this when all this site does is claim 40-45?!!! OPEN YOUR EYES AND WAKE PEOPLE AFGHANS!!! They know we have bad blood with Iran...what better way to destroy it's image even more....taking Afghans with them labelled as "drug traffickers" ..... KHUDA HAFIZ

by: habib from: london
April 28, 2010 21:31
Brothers and Sisters please pray for the ones who were hanged, may Allah have mercy on them and lets pray for the ones who are waiting for their fate. World is not intersted in our pain! Americans,Europeans,Iranians all these goverments only think of their own interest! Only a small number of people in these regions care about human rights! We should BLAME our selfs or our FATHERS for the mess that we are in now....even now we have not learned the lesson! I was in kabul 2weeks ago, its sad extremly sad the Goverment isnt helping the people and peple (wealthy) dont help people (poor) every one just thinks of themselves. We are to suffer unless we seek forgiveness for the mischeif that our fathers spreaded in our motherland...and when will the day come when we AFGHANS will be TRUE AFGHANS not Pashtu or Tajek or Hazara or Ozbak.....i will give anything to see that day! O Allah you help US.......................

by: Nadia from: Canada
April 30, 2010 20:01
Hello everyone,
I do not believe that Iran government is doing something that a human would do. No one should be sentenced before having a fair trail. Based on my opinion most of the 3000 are under 19 and just belong to poor AFGHAN families. If Iranian government execute all 3000 i am sure that they will recieve alot more hatred towards their nation than anyone else. The world should open their eyes and see that its wrong and that they do not deserve to die!!!!!!! Drug is not a big deal in western countries and i am sure they are not even drug dealers so why are they treated differently? Just because they are afghans??????? IT IS NOT FAIR!

by: mike from: florida
April 30, 2010 22:16
we need the same laws in America. Drugs have destroyed this country and there are no repurcussions. The Iranians a doing a good job killing the drug dealers.

by: Mas from: Canada
May 04, 2010 17:13
In response to many and especially to the commentator JPO below. Your ideologies reflect exaclty what is happening in Iran and how the government of Iran thinks. First of all, these individuals in jail are allegedly involved in drugs. It has not been proven that they really are. There are many instances where the Iranian police have approached the already pooor Afghans working or looking for work in Iran to give them some money, dollars. When the AFghans are unable to give the police any money, the police takes them to jail and alleges that they were involved in drug dealings. The problem is that prejudice and racism against the Afghan people are permeated in the Iranian society and now it is being reflected in the government system. It is disgusting and inhumane, simply DISGUSTING and INHUMANE.

Secondly, drugs are not separating "Muslim" brothers, but racism is. If Muslims really thought that we are all brothers than AFGHANS will not be hunged for an unproven charge of drug possession. Truth of the matter is that Iranian government is serving injustice and most people of Iran, due to racism, think that it is okay to kill and murder a few Afghans, as if Afghans are not worthy of life and respect. I'm so sick of hearing muslim brothers blah blah blah. No one fends and will fend for AFGHAns but Afghans themselves. Foreigners, muslim or non-muslim, do not care about Afghans and it is proven by the comment made by JPG.

by: Mas from: Canada
May 04, 2010 17:16
Miss Kabul: Yes, I suggest you sit back and relax in your chair before even raising a finger, while Afghan sons, who are out to look for work, are being hung with a rope and taken their lives out of their bodies, so you can protect the AFghan-Iran political relationship. TIME TO WAKE UP: go do your own research. See how AFghans are being treated throughout Iran. There are articles, news, and personal stories of Afghans EVERYWHERE talking about their experiences as refugees in Iran.

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