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Reports: Iranian Border Guards Beat Afghan Migrants and Throw Into a River

FILE - Afghan health workers measure the temperature of Afghan refugees to screen for coronavirus as they enter Afghanistan at the Islam Qala border crossing with Iran, in the western Herat Province, March 18, 2020.

Officials in Afghanistan are investigating reports that Iranian guards beat and tortured dozens of Afghan men trying to cross the border and threw them into the Harirud River.

Afghan officials say at least 12 bodies have been pulled from the river in Heart province and eight others are missing. As many as 70 were said to be attacked. A Taliban statement says 23 were killed.

“They kept hitting us with pipes and saying, ‘Don’t come back to our country,’ and kept pushing us into the river,” one of the survivors told reporters.

Another said guards threw him on the ground and stomped on his head before tossing him into the river. He said he survived by clinging to a tree before being rescued.

Iranian diplomats in Afghanistan promised an investigation but deny the initial claims. One Iranian foreign ministry officials saying whatever happened took place on the Afghan side of the border.

Thousands of Afghans cross into Iran every week hoping to find work. They are mainly smuggled into Iran or hide in trucks.

Observers say many Afghans have come home since January because of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran, but have since began trying to return to Iran. The Iranian economy is in bad shape, but still much better than conditions in Afghanistan.