RFL/RE – Farzad Amiri joined the hundreds of thousands of Afghans who flocked to neighboring Iran after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in 2021.
Amiri found work at a supermarket in the city of Shiraz, the capital of the southwestern province of Fars, where he resides with his family of eight.
But last week, Amiri, the sole breadwinner for his family, lost his job after the authorities in Fars enforced new job restrictions on foreigners.
A May 9 order issued by the Chamber of Guilds in Fars to the heads of unions in the province said that members should “strictly” refrain from hiring foreigners as salespeople and shop assistants. Businesses that violate the new rules, which came into effect on June 5, could face “heavy fines” and closure, it added.
“After the order was issued, my employer told me that I could no longer work there. As a result, I have been unemployed for the past week,” Amiri, a father-of-two, told RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi.
He said “a large number” of local businesses had been forced to fire their Afghan employees.
“After so much effort to reach Iran and with all the difficulties we’ve endured, I have no idea how I’m going to feed my family,” added Amiri, a native of Afghanistan’s western city of Herat. “I can’t even go back to Afghanistan because I sold everything we had there.”
It is unclear how many Afghans have been affected by the order in Fars, which reportedly has one of the largest Afghan communities inside Iran.
The new rules in Fars are the latest restrictions imposed on members of Iran’s large Afghan community, many of whom have complained of widespread discrimination and abuse.
An estimated 3 million Afghans, many of them undocumented refugees and migrants, live in Iran. Over 1 million Afghan have arrived in Iran following the Taliban takeover, although Tehran has deported more than half of the recent arrivals.
Afghans in the Islamic republic said they have come under growing pressure from the authorities amid rising tensions between Iran and the Taliban.
‘Insulting And Unjust’
Since the order in Fars was issued, local media reports said foreigners in the province can only take on hard labor jobs in construction and farming.
A video published online on June 6 showed Mehdi Dehghan Khalili, a local official in the city of Kawar in Fars, warning shop owners that they would be fined if they employed foreigners.
Khalili said 25 shops had so far been closed in Kawar, and special patrols were deployed in the city to enforce the new order.
Amir Hossein, an Afghan migrant who has lived in Shiraz for over a decade, has called on the local authorities to reverse the order.
“Our Iranian partners have been also affected by the restrictions,” he told Radio Azadi. “Let us work. We’re refugees.”
Similar restrictions have been imposed on foreigners living in the central province of Isfahan.
Mehdi Naderi, an immigration official in Isfahan, said last month that foreigners were only allowed to work manual labor jobs and were banned from working in supermarkets and retail stores.
It was not clear if local officials had imposed similar restrictions in other Iranian provinces where Afghans reside.
Naeem Nazari, head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, said the measures were “insulting and unjust.”SEE ALSO:Lost In Transactions: Afghans Living In Iran Left Stranded By Lack Of Access To Bank Cards
Nazari told Afghanistan’s Hasht-e Subh daily that “the Iranian government has consistently practiced discrimination and exploited migrants, particularly Afghan migrants, taking advantage of their vulnerabilities.”
For decades, Afghans fleeing war and poverty have gone to Iran to earn a living. Tehran has expelled many Afghans — who are often blamed for insecurity and unemployment — and periodically threatens those who remain with mass expulsion.
Many Afghans moved to Iran following the decade-long Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. Others sought refuge in Iran after the Taliban took power in Afghanistan. After the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, some Afghans went to Iran seeking jobs.
Iran claims that it hosts up to 5 million Afghan refugees, with officials complaining they have received little financial help from the international community.
Worsening Bilateral Relations
Afghans who live in Iran said they have been caught in the middle of rising tensions between Tehran and the Taliban.
A heated war of words over cross-border water resources boiled over into deadly clashes last month. Tensions remain high following the deaths of troops from both sides on May 27.SEE ALSO:New Videos Put Spotlight On Mistreatment Of Afghan Refugees In Iran
“Many Afghans move to Iran due to economic issues but unfortunately Iran uses them to pressure the rulers in Afghanistan,” an Afghan migrant who lives in Fars told Radio Azadi.
“The atmosphere has become tougher for Afghans in Iran,” added the Afghan migrant, who did not want to reveal his name for security reasons. “We hope that Iran resolves its issues diplomatically and views Afghan refugees from a humanitarian point of view.”
Drought-stricken southeastern Iran is heavily dependent on upriver water flows from Afghanistan. Tehran has called on the Taliban to release more water from the Helmand River, which feeds lakes and wetlands in Iran’s southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan Province.
The Taliban has rejected Tehran’s claims that it is violating a bilateral water treaty signed in 1973, and said that even if dams were opened there would not be enough water to reach Iran.
In January, Mohammad Sargazi, a lawmaker from Sistan-Baluchistan, said Tehran should consider deporting Afghans refugees if the Taliban does not give Iran its share of water from the Helmand River.
An Iranian security official said on June 11 that nearly 19,000 Afghans were deported in the past two weeks for living illegally in the country.