Afghanistan feels impact of Iran’s economic isolation

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Afghans began moving to Iran in large numbers after the Soviet invasion in 1979 and they continued to migrate for work through decades of conflict. (AFP)
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The latest drop in remittances from Iran is already having an impact on the economies of the Afghan provinces of Herat, Badghis and Ghor. (AFP)
Updated 25 April 2019

Afghanistan feels impact of Iran’s economic isolation

GENEVA/KABUL: Abdul Saboor escaped poverty and instability in Afghanistan three years ago with his wife and three children and found work in neighboring Iran. Now he has returned home, despite the fact that life there has not improved.
His job at a grocery store in the central Iranian city of Isfahan brought in about 280 dollars a month, enough to support his family. But the Iranian rial took a dive last year and his employer cut his wages to less than 100 dollars a month.
“The economic situation in Iran is really bad,” said the 28-year-old. “Wages have gone down since last year and a lot of families had to return to Afghanistan.”
Afghans began moving to Iran in large numbers after the Soviet invasion in 1979 and they continued to migrate for work through decades of conflict, sending money to relatives back home that helped bolster Afghanistan’s struggling economy.
In 2017, there were approximately 2.5 million to 3 million Afghans in Iran, according to Iranian government estimates cited by the United Nations.
That number could be cut in half by the end of this year. More than 770,000 Afghans left Iran last year as the currency faltered and an extra 570,000 are expected to go this year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in January.
Iran’s economy has been squeezed since President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran last year after pulling out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
US officials have said the sanctions are intended to pressure Iran to negotiate over what they say are its aggressive missile program and regional policy; critics say they hurt ordinary people and entrench hard-line rulers.
The rial lost approximately 70 percent of its value last year before recovering slightly, disrupting Iran’s foreign trade and helping boost annual inflation fourfold to nearly 40 percent in November. Currency fluctuations and the unstable economy have led to sporadic street protests since late 2017.
An IOM report in January noted that a big jump in the number of Afghans returning from Iran last year was “largely driven by recent political and economic issues in Iran including massive currency devaluation.”
Afghans typically took harsh, labor-intensive jobs in Iran and their departure will mean higher production costs, said Saeed Leylaz, a Tehran-based economist and political analyst.
Under pressure
Over the past year, many Afghans in Iran have sought advice about returning from the office of Grand Ayatollah Mohaghegh Kabuli — a senior Afghan religious leader based in the holy city of Qom, according to an administrator in the office who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject.
“With the crash of the value of the rial, staying in Iran has become very difficult for Afghan migrants,” he said. “They are under pressure.”
Naim, 18, followed the path of two of his older brothers and came to Iran from Afghanistan when he was only ten years old but quickly managed to find work in construction in Tehran.
The work was backbreaking and his family faced hardship: one brother lost four fingers in a construction accident in Tehran.
But he persevered, because he could make more money than at home, and eventually got a job as a doorman at a multi-story apartment complex in Tehran.
Last year, as the economic situation in Iran began to deteriorate, one of his older brothers decided he could no longer support his wife and six children and moved back to Herat in western Afghanistan.
“My brother’s wife and children were hungry and this currency has no value so they went back,” Naim said.
His brother started working in agriculture and has been able to open a small shop in Herat with his earnings. He is now pushing Naim to come home from Iran, a trip that he and approximately 150 friends and extended family are planning to take in two months.
“We work and we work and for what?” Naim said. “We have to go back.”
He could face an uncertain future once he returns.
“The economic opportunities in Afghanistan are no longer there. It’s not like there’s a lack of opportunities in Iran and new opportunities in Afghanistan,” said Sarah Craggs, IOM’s senior program coordinator for Afghanistan, who is based in Kabul. “There are no opportunities in either country really.”
Afghans have long sought better lives in other countries and a lack of jobs in Iran could also boost numbers trying to head further west to Europe.
The latest drop in remittances from Iran is already having an impact on the economies of the Afghan provinces of Herat, Badghis and Ghor, an IOM report said in January.
Abdul Saboor now earns about 130 dollars a month working at a restaurant in Herat.
“Life was much better in Iran but since the financial crisis, it was difficult to survive so we had to come back despite all the hardship here,” he said. “I was the lucky one and found a job while thousands of others are jobless.”


Myanmar troops’ sexual violence against Rohingya shows ‘genocidal intent’ — UN report

Updated 37 min 40 sec ago

Myanmar troops’ sexual violence against Rohingya shows ‘genocidal intent’ — UN report

  • Hundreds of Rohingya women and girls were raped, with 80 percent of the rapes corroborated by the Mission being gang rapes, says report
  • A military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state that began in August 2017 drove more than 730,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh

UNITED NATIONS: Sexual violence committed by Myanmar troops against Rohingya women and girls in 2017 was an indication of the military’s genocidal intent to destroy the mainly Muslim ethnic minority, United Nations investigators concluded in a report released on Thursday.
The panel of independent investigators, set up by the UN Human Rights Council in 2017, accused Myanmar’s government of failing to hold anyone accountable and said it was responsible “under the Genocide Convention for its failure to investigate and punish acts of genocide.”
A military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state that began in August 2017 drove more than 730,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh. Myanmar denies widespread wrongdoing and says the military campaign across hundreds of villages in northern Rakhine was in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents.
“Hundreds of Rohingya women and girls were raped, with 80 percent of the rapes corroborated by the Mission being gang rapes. The Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) was responsible for 82 percent of these gang rapes,” the report said.
The Myanmar government has refused entry to the UN investigators. The investigators traveled to refugee camps in Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia, and met with aid groups, think-tanks, academics and intergovernmental organizations.
In an August 2018 report, the investigators laid out five indicators of genocidal intent by the Myanmar military: the use of derogatory language; specific comments by government officials, politicians, religious authorities and military commanders prior, during and after the violence; the existence of discriminatory plans and policies; evidence of an organized plan of destruction; and the extreme brutality of the campaign.
“The Mission now concludes on reasonable grounds that the sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls that began on 25 August 2017 was a sixth factor that indicated the Tatmadaw’s genocidal intent to destroy the Rohingya people,” the new report said.
The conclusion was based on “the widespread and systematic killing of women and girls, the systematic selection of women and girls of reproductive ages for rape, attacks on pregnant women and on babies, the mutilation and other injures to their reproductive organs, the physical branding of their bodies by bite marks on their cheeks, neck, breast and thigh.”
It said that two years later no military commanders had been held accountable for these and other crimes under international law and that the government “notoriously denies responsibility.”
“Myanmar’s top two military officials remain in their positions of power despite the Mission’s call for them to be investigated and, if appropriate, prosecuted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide,” the report said.
The investigators said they had collected new information about alleged perpetrators and added their names to a confidential list that will be shared with the UN Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet and another UN inquiry charged with collecting and preserving evidence for possible future trials.