- Posted by Maryam Namazie
- On November 6, 2001
- 0 Comments
On the IFIR’s campaign in defence of Afghan refugees
Radio International interview
November 6, 2001
Radio International: What is the situation of Afghan refugees today? What does IFIR’s campaign aim to address?
Maryam Namazie: The situation of Afghan refugees is truly an immense human tragedy. Of course this is not something new. In the past two decades, millions of Afghans have fled as a result of political Islam, criminal Taliban and reactionary Islamic gangs like the Northern Alliance, lack of rights, sexual apartheid, poverty, drought, and wars. Today, we are witnessing a new phase in the mass flight and deprivation of Afghans as a result of the US-led bombing of Afghanistan. In this catastrophic situation, while thousands are fleeing and attempting to reach safety, the borders of Iran, Pakistan and other Central Asian countries remain closed. The governments of Iran and Pakistan, for example, have amassed troops, dug trenches and used bullets to stop refugees from entering safer areas. Recently, the Iranian government shot dead a refugee at the border; the Pakistani government killed a 23-year-old youth and injured a 13-year-old child. The criminal Taliban gang is also preventing people from fleeing. Tens of thousands have amassed at various borders pleading to get in. They are being put in camps in dangerous border areas within Afghanistan itself and given completely inadequate food, shelter, security, etc. In light of this situation, the IFIR is duty-bound to step up its defence of Afghan refugees and strive to prevent the further escalation of this human catastrophe and defend Afghan refugee rights.
Radio International: What are the aims and demands of IFIR’s campaign?
Maryam Namazie: Our campaign is calling for an immediate end to the USA and NATO bombing of Afghanistan and the opening of borders to Afghan refugees, both regionally and internationally. We have declared that closing borders on the Afghan people is a crime. Our campaign also calls on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to immediately improve the living conditions and security of refugees and the refugee camps; the recognition of the right to asylum of Afghans both in the region and internationally and an immediate end to deportations. The civil rights of Afghans must be recognised. The UNHCR is obligated to intervene; governments must be compelled to open their borders.
Radio International: The policy of deportation of Afghans has been a constant and ongoing policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Given that the regime has closed its borders in the current situation, do you really think that they will open the borders to Afghan refugees?
Maryam Namazie: I believe it is possible to force the regime to open its borders. Even the most despicable and reactionary regimes in the world can be forced to back down as a result of public pressure and progressive social movements. Today in Iran, the people’s movement has forced the regime to back down in many instances; internationally too, progressive movements have pushed back reactionary regimes and policies. Today, we too can push back the Islamic regime’s reactionary and inhuman policy against Afghan refugees. The people of Iran must and will push back the regime’s assault on Afghan refugees. People around the world must and will do so. World public opinion must strongly proclaim that closing borders is a crime and will not be tolerated. Refugees must be allowed to leave border camps in Afghanistan, where they face security risks and are within the reach of the reactionary Taliban and other Islamic groups. This is possible. This is a struggle that we must win, especially since the lives of innumerable human beings are at risk if we do not succeed. Of course the people of Iran and Pakistan play a critical role in this struggle. For example, 80,000 Afghans have entered Pakistan ‘unofficially;’ most are being housed with Pakistanis or other Afghan refugees. We must do this on a larger scale in Iran and Pakistan and other countries.
Radio International: Is the IFIR campaign focusing on neighbouring countries alone or on Western governments as well?
Maryam Namazie: Our priority is of course the opening of borders of neighbouring countries, particularly Iran and Pakistan since these governments are obstructing all possibilities of flight for the people from Afghanistan. The borders of particularly Iran and Pakistan must open immediately. But Western governments must also sense our strongest wrath and pressure. We have done this in the past and must escalate our protests. As I said before, there are millions of Afghan refugees in the world. After the end of the Cold War and the diminishing right to asylum, these are the very same people, who alongside Iranians, Iraqi Kurds, and others have drowned, suffocated and been killed as a result of closed borders and repressive measures. Just recently over 350 Afghan, Iraqi Kurd and other refugees drowned in the waters between Indonesia and Australia. Men, women and children attempting to seek refuge died trying to reach a safer place. Ruddock, the fascist Australian Minister of Immigration blamed the refugees for taking unsafe routes when it is the global policy of denying access to asylum seekers that is to blame. This is one example of the international dimensions of the same catastrophic and criminal closing of borders, whether in Iran or Pakistan or in Australia and the West.
Radio International: IFIR’s campaign states that flight is a right of the people of Afghanistan and closing borders on those fleeing is a crime. Why is this a crime?
Maryam Namazie: When people have no choice but to leave everything they have and flee because of repression, political Islam and Islamic groups and states, reaction, bombing, drought, etc. in order to save their lives and their children’s and family’s lives, but their flight is obstructed or prevented, it is a crime. When people are condemned to remain under bombing, reaction, repression, poverty and sexual apartheid, it is nothing less than a crime. When the Australian, Iranian or Pakistani governments close their borders, they are complicit in the crimes committed by the Taliban, Political Islam’s reaction and the US-led bombing. Closed borders kills people. We must condemn such inhuman policies and demand the immediate opening of borders to Afghans.