Afghan refugees describe horrors of torture along Turkish borders

Migrants, desperate for asylum in a country where they can find work, have spoken out about the perils of their overland journeys, and the horrendous treatment dished out by border authorities in neighboring countries and in Turkey.

Abdul Saboor, a university graduate, told Amu that he left Afghanistan through Chahar Burjak crossing a month ago. He crossed Iran and made it to the border with Turkey but there he was detained and then deported. He returned home two weeks ago.

Saboor spoke of the horrors that migrants face. Not only are they treated badly by Iranian border officials, and tortured by Turkish authorities, but they also run the risk of being robbed by gangs affiliated with human traffickers. He said these gangs steal migrants’ phones, money, and all other possessions.

However, the treatment along the Turkish border is particularly bad, he said.

“Nowhere exists more oppression and horror than along the borders of Turkey. Turkish police beat up everyone [who crosses the border illegally],” he said.

Saboor described how he and the group of migrants he was traveling with were arrested and tortured by Turkish forces. Tactics used include the pulling of teeth with pliers and the breaking of hands and feet.

He said: “We were 80 people, of which 20 were not beaten up. They beat [the refugees] nearly to death. Police ripped out the mustaches of the people with their hands, and [pulled] their teeth with pliers. They (police) also broke people’s hands and feet and then released them.”

Other migrants who have returned home shared similar stories and said they were arrested by Turkish forces, and beaten and tortured before being turned over to Iranian authorities who also mistreated them before deporting them.

Sakhi Sadeqi was another migrant who shared horror stories of “cruelty and violence” imposed on his fellow countrymen.

“We were 20 people, and the Turkish border police stabbed us with a knife and sent us back to Iran. We were wounded and captured by Iranian forces, they also harassed us in the cold, snowy weather over a day and a night and then deported us via the Abreshum border,” Sadeqi said.

He said Afghan migrants are being “violated” to such an extent by the Turkish police in a bid to stop them from trying to cross borders again illegally.

Saqedi said that treatment by Iranian forces was also harsh and that once handed over by Turkish police, the Iranian forces would hold the migrants for up to 10 days without shelter or food – in freezing conditions. He said they were violating international laws on refugees.

“There were no blankets in this winter, we had to buy food with our own money. Their behavior with Afghan immigrants is far from human principles.”

Esmatullah, a resident of Laghman province, was another desperate Afghan forced to leave his country in search of work. He headed for Turkey, through Iran, after leaving the country through Nimroz province. However, he was caught and deported – he returned home last week.

The 25-year-old said he witnessed Afghan refugees being tortured by Turkish border guards. He said these guards take migrants into rooms where they beat them.

According to him, mostly young men were taken into these rooms and beaten – “one-by-one” – and if anyone sustained a broken arm or leg, they were left on Iranian soil.

He described a holding camp, in Iran, where about 200 people were being held. The Zahedan camp was dirty, had no water and no food. After taking two million Tomans (around $50) from each migrant, they deported them.

“A boy, who traveled with me, spent almost 10 million Tomans (around $250). The Turkish police ripped out his mustache by hand and pulled out his teeth with pliers and then deported him. He was from a very poor family. Now he is in a very bad mental state,” Esmatullah said.

He added that he also met a young man who was a resident of Nimroz. The Iranians “took out his kidney and then deported him.”

Karishma Ayubi, an Afghan girl who traveled to Turkey illegally, but was arrested by Turkish police, was also deported.

“I was imprisoned in a single cell for two weeks. I didn’t know when it was day or night. During 24 hours, they only gave me a 20-gram cream cheese with jam, a piece of dry bread, and a glass of water, and then they deported me.”

Mass repatriations

Around 30,000 people were repatriated in the last month, Taliban officials said this week.

Sediqullah Nusrat, head of the Taliban’s refugees and repatriation directorate of Nimroz, said that at least 29,933 people were repatriated from 22 December 2022 to 20 January 2023 via the Abreshum border in western Nimroz province.

He said that during this period, the bodies of 46 Afghan citizens were also repatriated. He did not give details on the circumstances surrounding the deaths of these Afghans.

On average, 1,000 to 1,500 people enter Afghanistan through the Abreshum border on a daily basis. Most of them have tried to reach Iran, Turkey, and Europe in search of jobs and a better life.

Meanwhile, a high-ranking delegation led by Mohammad Karami, Governor of Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan provinces, visited Nimroz last week to discuss ways to resolve issues around border tensions, which include human trafficking and drug smuggling.