Migrants from Afghanistan kidnapped, tortured on Iran-Turkey border

Migrants from Afghanistan in Islam Qala border city in Herat.

A BBC investigation has found that people fleeing Afghanistan are being kidnapped and tortured by gangs along the border between Iran and Turkey.

Once they capture the migrants, these gangs film them and send videos of the abuse to the families of the migrants, demanding a ransom for their release, BBC reported.

The captured migrants are shackled together with chains and padlocks and held in the mountainous border region.

One video is of a man saying his kidnappers are demanding a $4,000 ransom for each migrant. Another video shows a man being sexually abused at knifepoint by one of the gangs.

The migrant trail from Iran to Turkey is across mountainous terrain that has no trees to provide shade and is a grueling trek that takes hours.

But gangs have seen an opportunity to profit from the increase in the number of people making the journey, and according to BBC, these gangs often work in collaboration with smugglers and kidnap people on the Iranian side of the border.

The BBC reported its investigation team heard stories of torture from at least 10 locations along the border and one activist who has been documenting the abuse for the past three years said he received as many as two or three videos of torture a day at its peak.

In addition to the gangs, migrants also face another major obstacle along this route – the border wall.

A three-meter high wall along more than half the length of the Iranian-Turkish borders is fortified with barbed wire and electronic sensors. European Union watchtowers are also visible at regular intervals.

Turkey began building the wall in 2017 in order to stop migrants from crossing into the country, but they are still coming.

Mahmut Kagan, a Turkish human rights lawyer, told BBC that Turkey’s practice of pushing asylum seekers back over the border into Iran is illegal under international law, and is helping the gangs to exploit people.

“It’s very much related to the pushbacks – those violations – because it creates a fragile group open to all forms of abuses,” he says.

Turkish authorities did not respond to the BBC’s request for comment about these allegations. But in the face of similar accusations from human rights groups the government has denied pushbacks, saying any activities to prevent illegal entry into Turkey are carried out within the scope of border management.

BBC stated they also asked the Iranian government what was being done to crack down on the gangs along the border, but they did not receive a response.