Anger in Afghanistan over video footage of refugees beaten and abused in Iran

Angry Afghans protested outside the Iranian Embassy in Kabul on Tuesday after video footage emerged showing Afghan refugees in Iran being beaten and abused.

More than 200 demonstrators gathered at a square in central Kabul, carrying posters reading “Iran should stop its cruelties” and “We want justice.”

Public demonstrations are banned by the Taliban, but they allowed the protest to proceed with armed guards watching. “The Iranian security forces and even common people there have been treating us badly,” said one protester, Manzoor Ahmad Farooqi, who had just returned from Iran. “When their police see us they pin us to the ground and beat us.”

Tehran closed its Afghan missions until further notice “in order to obtain necessary assurances guaranteeing total security,” its foreign ministry said.

Iran has hosted millions of Afghan refugees for decades, but fresh waves have flooded the country since the Taliban returned to power in August, testing the patience of authorities and ordinary people.

Tuesday’s protest came after videos circulated at the weekend apparently showing Iranian border guards and civilians beating Afghans, although it was unclear when and where the images were filmed. Iranian officials dismissed the videos as “baseless and invalid.”

Protests first erupted Monday in Herat, the western city that is a launchpad for Afghans who want to cross to Iran. Protesters set fire to an Iranian flag outside Tehran’s consulate in the city, and smashed CCTV cameras.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned Afghanistan’s charge d’affaires in Tehran “to vigorously protest against the attacks on the Iranian Embassy in Kabul and the consulate general in Herat.”

Iran has long had testy relations with the Taliban, who raided Tehran’s consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998 and murdered 10 diplomats and a journalist.