Hamed Hadian, an investigative reporter of rahnam news agency, wrote: “A number of protesters attacked the homes of Afghan immigrants with sticks and stones in the city of Iqbaliya in Qazvin province of Iran.” Afghan immigrants in this city advise each other not to leave the house and to have enough food and lock the doors and windows in the messages that they send to each other in Telegram and WhatsApp groups. This is part of the narrative that Afghanistan TV reported. International” along with the film on the output of his social networks. These strange protests were held on 13th and 14th of Mehr, in front of the city council building and Friday prayer in Iqbaliye city, and ended at once after the attack on the house of the immigrants, with the arrest of 19 people by the police. The Iqbaliya incident is one of the biggest public conflicts against immigrants in recent years, which fortunately did not cause any casualties. Although until today, all its dimensions have not been clarified.
This bitter incident opened the story of immigrants in Iran. An issue that some media and social networks had blown into in the last six months, and one of its results came to fruition in Iqbaliyeh. It can be predicted that if the issue is not properly organized, this model of events will be repeated in Iran in the future.
Some managers of the newly established National Migration Organization (which the Islamic Council has not approved yet due to some external opposition) say that the anti-immigrant wave in Iran has foreign roots. But they also know that part of the story is hidden under water like an iceberg. This report and subsequent reports are to show part of the dimensions of this story…
Iqbaliyah Gathering; A popular protest or a guided project?!
I went to Qazvin city to investigate the attack on Afghan immigrants. My idea about the story was that finally, after several months of the issue of immigrants becoming hot in the virtual space, these events in the field are normal. The most bitter part of the story is the accusation of racism against Iranians and the next point is the humiliation of some immigrants who have been our neighbors for years. According to some studies, more than 50% of Iranian society is dissatisfied with the presence of Afghan immigrants. In some neighborhoods in big cities like Tehran, more than 50% are against it. But these dissatisfactions have never been so strong as to reach public protest. Until today, in several parts of the country, this story has been dragged into open conflict.
In these years and after the Taliban regained power in the last two years, the Iranian society had become closer and more empathetic towards the people of Afghanistan due to humanitarian reasons, which can be seen in the virtual space and empathy with the Afghans in events such as various bombings in the cities of this country. The country and the adventures of Panjshir, etc. can be followed. However, from two years ago until today, this empathy has reached a point where events like the Herat earthquake do not provoke a special reaction in the Iranian society, and negative feelings reach their peak in the case of the murder of Dariush Mehrjoui.
On the way to Qazvin, I coordinated with some provincial reporters. A few days ago, he sent me a text as the origin of the Iqbaliya story: “The issue is that due to the opening of the country’s borders to Afghan nationals and the special economic situation of Qazvin city and of course the high cost of land in Qazvin city (the third most expensive city in the country in terms of housing) and housing inflation record) Immigrants were forced to settle in the vicinity of Qazvin city on their own during the recent decades, especially since the high dollar price since the end of 2019. Considering the pristine location of Iqbaliya city and its very close distance to Qazvin city, Iqbaliya is the best place for Afghans to live in Qazvin, and currently 15 thousand Afghan citizens live in Iqbaliya city, which due to the high birth rate, balances the population of Iqbaliya city. Also, some are worried about the growth of Salafi and Wahhabi ideas by hiding among these populations; Although these immigrants and Sunni religion itself is not a security issue. On the other hand, these days, there are rumors among the people of Qazvin Province from the forces opposing the Islamic Republic of Iran that the system intends to make a repressive force against the people of Qazvin by increasing the generation of Afghans.
The story of some immigrants being Wahhabi and having many children is one of those words that are often used to confront immigrants. But none of them can be proven. Apart from these words, a large part of immigrants are legally present in Qazvin. In another part of the text, it was written: “During the recent days, the attack of an Afghan on Iranians in the city of Segzabad, Boyin Zahra, caused the anger of the people of this city and their demonstration for the expulsion of Afghans, which was censored by the media of Qazvin province, and of course, some authorities also told the media to Publishing the news of these demonstrations – probably to prevent the spread of these events – they gave warnings. However, the conflict between the people of Iqbaliya, Segezabad and Afghan nationals should be managed through gradual gathering and returning them to their country. Not long ago, a member of the Iqbaliya city council announced the arrest of a low-ranking ISIS commander in Iqbaliya.
I felt that the text he sent me contained some wrong information. Although the same words can easily be heard among ordinary people and social networks. But these were not just common words. Qazvin Governor Gholamhassan Eslami Sadr said in a meeting focused on preventing social harm caused by the presence of unauthorized Afghan nationals: “Our hands are empty to deal with illegal Afghan nationals in Qazvin province and what we are doing today is a vicious cycle. Unauthorized Afghan nationals are arrested on the street and some of them, if they meet the necessary conditions, are transferred to the camp and finally transferred to the borders and crossed the borders, but 3.5 hours later, the same deported nationals enter our country again. . That is, before the officers reach Mashhad, the deported nationals returned ahead of them and they return to their place of establishment very quickly.” The words of the governor are important because what is the view of a provincial official about the matter; And is there a difference between authorized and unauthorized immigrants and what is the main reason for this acceptance of immigrants? And who but these immigrants are active in the field of hard jobs in construction and agriculture of the province. In the same meeting, the governor continued: “The solution is to limit the attractiveness of Afghans to settle in Qazvin province, of course, we do not have much influence in national decisions, unless we have separate meetings with the members of the parliament and they want to enact new laws and points at the level of the parliament.” fix the weakness Currently, there is a competition between all the provinces to throw Afghan nationals next to each other, and it is like a bomb that has a detonator and a timer, and each province throws these nationals to another province. In this situation, Qazvin province is the most attractive for illegal citizens. Because it is forbidden to travel from Qazvin province to the west and north. Therefore, the special advantage of these Afghan nationals for us is that they come to Qazvin and Iqbaliyeh and settle their families and work in Abhar and Zanjan and further western regions and return here.” These words even create the suspicion that some officials are seeking to change the national view with a local view.
I was hoping that when I go to Iqbaliye, I will be able to find out the details of the story. I got off the Qazvin bus. In the main square near the terminal, I saw an advertisement on top of a shop. It was written that they need some Afghan workers for packaging work. I said to myself, as if not, as if the Afghans here were attacked just a few days ago. Qazvin is one of the 16 provinces where Afghan immigrants have been allowed to live for years. Illegal immigrants are also present in unauthorized provinces, although their numbers are low. We were supposed to go to Iqbaliyeh with a provincial reporter. We found each other and got into a taxi. We asked the taxi driver about the incident of Iqbaliyah. He said that the number of Afghans increased in these two years. People don’t have money to buy houses and they rent houses more expensively. In the morning, twenty buses come to take them to work. Then Iranians are unemployed. Most of them work in the national housing project. The reporter’s friend jumped in the middle of the driver’s speech and said that it is interesting that the Afghans of Iqbaliyeh do not have a place in the official statistics and of course, facilities are not considered for them. Also, according to unofficial statistics, 70% of the labor sector in the field of construction in the country is in the hands of Afghan nationals. The careless driver continued that people were happy about the attack that day in Iqbaliya. Because they did not give us water. He meant Hirmand water. In the middle of the conversation, another passenger who was riding a taxi. He got angry and said that the attackers made a mistake that day. They were a series of fluffy lots. When the Afghan men were not in their house, they attacked there. He said that the poor farmer owners of one of the houses, who had just picked up a few sacks of pistachios from the ground, were thrown by the protesters into the alley and destroyed everything.
We got out of the taxi and after some inquiries we arrived at Iqbaliyeh. From the appearance of the street, it was obvious that it is a busy neighborhood. On the glass of the real estate transaction company at the entrance of the city, it was written that Afghans are not given houses for rent. We tried to talk to the shop owner, but he refused. Two shops on the other side, we entered a sandwich shop. Two teenagers were working there. One of them was a participant of that day’s rally. He said it was just last Thursday and Friday. About 700 people gathered in front of the municipality and chanted that you should expel the Afghans. They were women, old, young, etc. They said that they took our jobs and housing. After that, we went to the Mehr residence where the Afghans were working, but the special police unit did not allow us to enter. Then we spread out in the streets here. I asked, did you take a video? He said that they would not let anyone take a video. I asked how people found out about the rally and gathered, he said from Instagram stories and Telegram groups. I said who started it. did not know! He said that everyone decided together. We also talked to some other residents. Their talk was bread, work and housing. They did not know who started the story. We went to the alley where the film of the attack on the homes of the immigrants was shot. There was a bakery at the end of the alley. The owner said he was unaware of the incident that day. A few steps ahead, we talked with the locals. He said that just today, the bakery on the street did not give bread to two Afghans and spoke badly to them. The poor people melted. He said that I was very upset and I bought it for them myself, and I ranted and raged, why don’t you give them bread! Now they didn’t even want twenty loaves of bread, which people talk about. We went a little further near the house whose door was damaged in the attack on the immigrants. Two women were in front of the door and they were not very willing to talk. We also saw an Iranian man among the residents who was not happy with the presence of the immigrants, although they did not harm him, but we understood from his words that he was disrespected.
I did not understand one thing in the interview with the people and the immigrants. That is where the story started and where it ends. Housing and bread alone cannot cause this conflict. The only luck that the immigrants brought was that they were ready and that most of them were not inside the house.
Some people said that this neighborhood used to be known as Zorabad and thugs lived here. Their children started the story. One person also talked about a leasing scam in which immigrants were involved, but all this was speculation. This could not be the beginning of the story. Afghans were also afraid to speak. They didn’t know much about the story either. They had been forced to migrate and now they should be trembling. It was clear that the Iranians of Iqbaliyeh felt that they were poisoned. Among the real estate agents, only one of them was willing to give them a house. Although the landlords were satisfied with them because they paid more and paid the money in advance. People from all ethnic groups were present in the region.
In order to clarify the matter for myself, I called the provincial authorities with the help of my journalist friends. Most of them gave an upbeat answer or said that the story is over and let it go. The manager who was responsible for the incident said on the phone that he had an operation on his back and could not speak.
The missing puzzle of the story had become my biggest question. So we messaged everyone we could think of and followed up. At the end of the day, we got two words from a source in the province. That friend said that the protests were organized in those days and everyone was arrested by Faraja. The reporter’s friend was shocked when he heard the words. He said that it might be a matter of land grabbing and considering the anti-immigrant atmosphere that has been created in these few months, maybe the land grabbers recognized this space as a good platform for surfing. I followed up again and another source in the province said that there are better and more accessible lands for farming in Qazvin province. The last possibility remains, that a suspicious group or gang played a role in the formation of this gathering.
This symbolic event raised another question for me, who prepared this space and platform in the virtual space against the immigrants, the first ripe fruit of which was picked in Iqbaliyeh…
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