‘I am burning’: Iran police condemned after Afghan refugees killed in car blaze

After its tires were shot and hit, the vehicle continued to drive away on its wheel rims, igniting sparks that started the blaze.

Iranian police have been blamed for a deadly car shooting that led to a fire and the subsequent deaths of at least three Afghan refugees.

Afghans have taken to social media to condemn Iranian police after a video of a car carrying refugees being set ablaze in Iran went viral.

Afghanistan’s foreign ministry issued a statement on Friday that three Afghans were killed and four injured in Iran’s Yazd province after their vehicle was shot at by Iranian police, starting the fire.

Video footage posted on social media platforms showed a young boy escaping from the blazing car with severe burns on various parts of his body, begging for water. The ministry said the video was authentic, and Afghans in Iran were trying to recognize and identify the victims.

The boy’s desperate plea of “give me some water, I am burning” was extensively circulated on the net and taken up by rights group trying to get justice.

“Iran has no right to murder Afghan refugees, they can seal their borders, expel all Afghans but not murder them,” Ali Noori, a lawyer and rights activist, said on his social media.

Iranian embassy officials in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul were not immediately available for comment, but a local official in Iran earlier rejected the allegation that the police were responsible for the blaze.

Police fired on the vehicle, allegedly suspected of carrying undocumented migrants and drugs after it crashed through a checkpoint, Ahmad Tarahomi, deputy governor of Yazd, informed state media.

After its tires were shot and hit, the vehicle continued to drive away on its wheel rims, igniting sparks that started the blaze, Tarahomi said.

At the moment in time, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi issued a statement saying only just that the incident in question had taken place on Afghan soil.

This is not the first time an incident like this has occurred.

Last month, Iranian border police were accused of beating, detaining, and torturing dozens of Afghans before coercing them at gunpoint to jump into the Harirod River, which flows through Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and Iran, where they drowned to death.

The Afghan government vowed a “thorough investigation” of the drownings, but the findings have yet to be made public.

Dead bodies of Afghan refugees who were forcefully drowned by Iranian border guards. Shahpoor Saber  RFE/RL

In response to the deaths by burning in Yazd, Shahrzad Akbar, Chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, called for the release of the uncoverings of the investigation into the May drownings. He also confirmed the beating, torturing, and drowning of several Afghan refugees by Iranian border guards, a claim rejected by Tehran.

Afghans have, for years, sought refuge in Iran from poverty and war in their country.

Iran says about 2.5 million Afghan immigrants, both undocumented and legal, reside there. Facing its own economic problems that are worsened by international sanctions, Iran has is trying to send Afghans back home.

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