London, 2 August – The economic, political, and social situation in Iran is getting so bad that even Afghan refugees and migrants that have been in Iran for over a decade are returning to their war-ravaged homeland.
Iran’s economy has been in freefall for quite a while thanks to the corruption of the mullahs, but this has been exacerbated by the new tough US policy on Iran. Now the value of the Iranian currency (rial) is falling fast, while inflation and unemployment are on the rise. This has hit Afghan migrants particularly hard as work in the grey economy, where most of them work, has declined sharply.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), over 400,000 undocumented Afghan migrants left Iran in 2018, compared with 187,000 in the previous year. While bus drivers report driving 300 Afghans per day from Herat, near the Iranian border, to Kabul.
Considering that Afghanistan is still in a very fragile position, in terms of both economy and security, we can really see how bad the situation in Iran must be. The war-torn nation has 40% unemployment, is heavily reliant on dwindling foreign aid, and is suffering through the worst drought in decades, but this is still considered an improvement.
Noor Mohammad, who worked in Iran for ten years, said: “The rial is worthless. I couldn’t even make enough money to cover my own expenses. So I couldn’t send any money back to my family in Afghanistan.”
Sediqullah, who had also worked in Iran for serval years, said: “Even if I earn 300 afghanis ($4) [per day], it’s still more than I would make in Iran. I don’t think many Afghans will stay in Iran. Many will come back to Afghanistan.”
Between January 1 and July 31, the rial dropped from 42,900 rials to the US dollar to a record low of 119,000. This dramatic fall is likely the result of increased US pressure on Iran after pulling out of the nuclear deal in May and reimposing nuclear sanctions on the country from August 6.
These sanctions will only harm the Iranian economy more, especially once oil sanctions kick in on November 4, and bring the Mullahs to their knees. The government artificially fixed its exchange rate at 42,000 to the US dollar in April, but this did not stabilise the economy.
Afghans in Iran also have another good reason to return home and that is to escape persecution, violence, and other injustices that they are subjected to in Iran.
Many Afghanis in Iran are still denied basic services, including access to health care, jobs, and housing, while Iran frequently threatens them with mass expulsion.