Accessibility links

Breaking News

Gandhara Briefing: Refugees In Iran, Afghan Drug Addicts, Pakistan Blasphemy Victim

Forced deportations of Afghan immigrants from Iran have increased in recent months.
Forced deportations of Afghan immigrants from Iran have increased in recent months.

Welcome to Gandhara's weekly newsletter. This briefing brings you the best of our reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

If you’re new to the newsletter or haven’t subscribed yet, you can do so here.

Videos expose abuse of Afghans in Iran

I write about new videos that highlight the abuse and discrimination suffered by Afghan refugees and migrants in Iran. The clips, which have gone viral on social media, purportedly show Afghans being beaten and humiliated by Iranian police and civilians.

The videos have rekindled debate about the treatment of the estimated 3 million Afghans residing in Iran. An additional 1 million Afghans have sought shelter in Iran since the Taliban seized power.

“It is horrible, disgusting, and heartbreaking to see videos of how inhumanly Afghan migrants and refugees are being treated in Iran,” said Zaman Sultani, a South Asia researcher at Amnesty International.

Taliban's brutal treatment of drug addicts

Radio Azadi reports on the Taliban’s heavy-handed strategy to curb drug addiction in Afghanistan. For months, Taliban fighters have rounded up, beaten, and forcibly taken addicts to prisons across the country. But addicts say the cold-turkey treatment does not work.

“I was sent to prison by the Taliban's government, but the treatment didn't work," said Dawood, who spent months at a prison in Farah Province with hundreds of other addicts. "I want to go to a rehabilitation center because they provide better treatment."

Health experts said the Taliban’s treatment of drug addicts is cruel and ineffective.

“There is no counseling in prison. An addicted person needs counseling, and that is why they end up [being treated] in prison for a long time," said Hamed Elmi, a doctor who heads a drug-rehabilitation center in Farah.

Blasphemy vigilantes claim another victim

Shaheen Buneri writes about the brutal killing of Safoora Bibi, a Pakistani schoolteacher who became the latest victim of blasphemy vigilantes in Pakistan.

“A cruel act has been committed against us and we demand justice from the authorities,” said Zahid Qureshi, Bibi’s uncle.

Umara Amman, the main suspect, told police that she and her two nieces attacked Bibi after a relative dreamed that Bibi had committed blasphemy, a crime punishable by death in Pakistan.

Afghans flee abroad to educate daughters

Radio Azadi reports on Afghans families who are fleeing their homeland to ensure their daughters can receive an education abroad. The Taliban has banned Afghan girls from attending high school.

"Education is vital and a key priority for us all," said Farzana Nemat, who moved to Pakistan with her young daughters. "If they are deprived of education in this day and age, what other rights can they expect in life?”

In an audio message to Radio Azadi, Qamar Niazi, a female teacher from Helmand, expressed her bitter disappointment with the Taliban's continuing ban on girls’ education.

“It is a right that God, the Koran, and Islamic Shari’a law has given to us," she said. "Why do they [the Taliban] deprive us of this right?”

I hope you found this week’s newsletter useful, and I encourage you to forward it to your colleagues. Please note that next week there will be no newsletter due to the holidays.

If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do so here. I encourage you to visit our website and follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Please note that I will be away next week, so we will not be sending a newsletter.

Abubakar Siddique
Twitter: @sid_abu

P.S.: You can always reach us at

  • 16x9 Image

    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, a journalist for RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, specializes in the coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan. He is also one of the authors of the Azadi Briefing, a weekly newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

If you are in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine and hold a Russian passport or are a stateless person residing permanently in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine, please note that you could face fines or imprisonment for sharing, liking, commenting on, or saving our content, or for contacting us.

To find out more, click here.

Radio Azadi is RFE/RL's Dari- and Pashto-language public service news outlet for Afghanistan. Every Friday, in our newsletter, Azadi Briefing, one of our journalists will share their analysis of the week’s most important issues and explain why they matter.

To subscribe, click here.