Iran team to probe Afghan torture claims

Afghan National Army officers stand guard at the site of a blast in Ghazni province, Afghanistan May 18, 2020. (REUTERS)
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Updated 20 May 2020

Iran team to probe Afghan torture claims

  • Reports of the incident sparked anger in Kabul, with Afghan Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar raising the matter with Iranian officials during a “tense interaction” days later

KABUL: Tehran will set up a team to investigate an incident in which Iranian guards were alleged to have been responsible for the drowning of a group of illegal Afghan migrants earlier this month, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.
“Iranian border officials refuted the findings of the government and will send a high-ranking delegation to the Afghan side for investigation,” Gran Hewad told Arab News, citing the findings of a team of Afghan Border Commissioners who were sent to Iran for an investigation.
The Afghan commissioners have handed over the investigation to diplomatic authorities based on a bilateral border agreement, he added.
“The Iranian authorities have informed Afghanistan Embassy in Tehran that they, too, have appointed a diplomatic team to address the matter further,” Hewad said.
As part of a move to draw global attention to the alleged incident which took place on May 1, several Afghans on Monday gathered outside the UN compound in the western city of Herat, which lies near the border with Iran and is home to most of the 46 migrants.
“We staged the rally because this incident was the most brutal of all and the world must take this matter seriously,” Hamid Rasa, one of the participants told Arab News by phone from Herat.
Rasa, along with several others, urged the UN to investigate the incident, with locals saying the migrants had crossed into Iran at night, and were detained, tortured and forced at gunpoint to jump into a river the next day. The Harirud River, where the alleged incident took place, forms the border between the two countries.
“Out of the 46 people involved, 13 drowned, 14 are still missing and 19 managed to survive,” Hewad said.

FASTFACTS

• Tehran blamed for torture of 46 illegal migrants.

• Iran team to probe Afghan drowning incident.

Afghan border commissioners interviewed villagers, survivors and the victims’ next of kin before sharing the evidence with their Iranian counterparts, “who rejected the findings,” he said.
Reports of the incident sparked anger in Kabul, with Afghan Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar raising the matter with Iranian officials during a “tense interaction” days later.
In recent years, Iran and Afghanistan have had uneasy ties, with Kabul complaining that Tehran uses Afghan Shiite migrants to fight its proxy wars in the Middle East, as well as providing cash and arms to Taliban insurgents fighting the Afghan government and US-led troops in Afghanistan.


In Haiti, disbelief and rumors lead to virus deaths

Updated 4 min 33 sec ago

In Haiti, disbelief and rumors lead to virus deaths

  • Medical personnel are baffled by the unwillingness of many Haitians to take the pandemic seriously
  • Those who are ill and relatives of those who have died refuse to believe that they are susceptible to getting sick

CITE SOLEIL, Haiti: On paper, Haiti so far has everything it needs to battle the coronavirus crisis — unoccupied hospital beds, medical staff and supplies.
But in reality, the population’s skepticism about whether the contagion even exists has led to a quickly mounting death toll.
“The illness is real. Many of our citizens are experiencing respiratory symptoms and other tell-tale signs,” said Erneau Mondesir, a doctor who works in impoverished Cite Soleil.
“It’s really important for them to believe this disease exists.”
And yet, despite the hundreds of thousands of deaths around the world, medical personnel are baffled by the unwillingness of many Haitians to take the pandemic seriously.
The first cases were detected in Haiti two months ago. In recent days, an increasing number of people are reporting symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
They insist they have a “bit of a fever” or a “mild illness” — but people are dying in and around the capital Port-au-Prince.
Those who are ill and relatives of those who have died refuse to believe that they are susceptible to getting sick.
Instead of seeking medical attention, some are relying on tea-based home remedies.
Mondesir works at a hospital in Cite Soleil — located just outside the capital — opened by Doctors without Borders (MSF). The 45-bed facility is restricted to coronavirus patients.
Two weeks after it opened, more and more people are being admitted. But there is still room for more.

“Today, one thing is clear: there are many people who stayed at home too long and then came to the hospital,” explained Mondesir, the medical director for the MSF project.
“That means treating them will not be as effective at the outset,” he added, before donning all of the necessary protective gear.
In the intensive care unit, oxygen machines hum and heart monitors beep — the repetitive rhythm of the otherwise calm room.
Doctors and nurses, their names scrawled in marker on their disposable gowns, regularly check on their patients. For now, only three of 10 beds are in use.
“These are the patients in critical condition. They arrive in a coma, and with complications,” said Antonio Plessy, another doctor in the unit. Behind him, an elderly man lies unconscious.
“We’re trying everything: giving them high levels of oxygen, anticoagulants, antibiotics... We’re doing everything until they breathe their last breath,” said the anesthesiologist.
According to the latest data, published late Wednesday, there have been 50 virus-related deaths in Haiti, out of 2,640 confirmed cases.
But even the national crisis management committee acknowledges that the real figures are higher, given the relatively small number of tests conducted so far.
In a country where so many rely on the informal economy to get by, lockdown measures have been impossible to impose, and social distancing in crowded markets is a pipe dream.
Even getting people to wear a mask properly — technically required in public spaces since May 11 — is a challenge. Medical experts are certain that an uptick in infections is coming.
“If we can’t limit the spread of this pathogen now, we can at least try to limit the damage,” said Mondesir, adding that he wishes contact tracing were a viable possibility.
“It usually takes a week or two from the time that symptoms first appear for patients to show up at the hospital,” he noted.
“It’s very hard to trace all the people these patients have been in contact with, beyond those who live with them.”


Jonel Cadet, 25, only found out he had coronavirus because he had a motorcycle accident and broke his leg.
“I developed a bit of a fever when I was in the hospital. It dropped quickly, but then they put something in my nose and then my throat, and then they told me I was infected,” he said.
Before he ended up in the hospital, he was among the skeptics. He even had to convince his relatives to let him seek treatment at the MSF facility.
“I didn’t believe it, and I even said the president was talking nonsense,” he said with a laugh.
“It was only by coming here that I really started to believe, because I saw people who were much worse off.”
Beyond the general skepticism that reigns in Haiti, there are also those who believe a rumor that any treatment involving a needle in a coronavirus treatment center will be deadly.
“My brother thought they would kill me at the hospital,” said Cadet, who has now recovered after two weeks of inpatient care.
“I told him God would decide. But no, it has to be said — no one kills people at hospitals.”
Cadet advises his countrymen to “wear masks, and then there you go, no corona.”
His broken leg is now healing in an exterior metal brace, and he is eagerly awaiting a return to a “normal” hospital as it heals.