Unemployment, Insecurity and poverty are compelling Afghan children to migrate to neighboring countries especially to Iran to keep their hopes afloat for a better future.
Herat, a comparatively developed province in the country’s west, remains a major corridor for human smuggling, particularly that of children to Iran.
Grim situation of children smuggling
Sifatullah, 16, who hails from Chalchina in northern Kunduz province, told Pajhwok human smugglers brought him to Herat and sneaked him into Iran via Nimroz province nine months ago. However, he was apprehended by Iranian police and deported him back to Afghanistan and is currently living in Herat City.
Referring to the circumstances leading to his decision of illegal migration to Iran, Sifatullah noted: “Due to the presence of Taliban and resulting hostilities in our area, we were unable to grow crops in our farms. My father advised me go to Iran as remaining in the troubled area I would have been compelled to either take sides with the Taliban or the government and in both scenarios I would be killed.”
Having decided to migrate to Iran, Sifatullah at the age of 15 years, traveled to Nimroz province via Kabul, where Pakistani smugglers took him along with several other Afghans to Iran.
After being sneaked into Iran, he along with other Afghan migrant stayed in a hotel in Iran’s southeastern city Kerman, from where they were asked to move to another place.
While travelling to our further destination, a Baloch man sexually assaulted a 12-year-old Afghan boy in the bus and nobody dared to stop him.”
“We were taken to a room elsewhere and kept hungry for three days. The smugglers took us hostages and asked us to contact our families in Afghanistan to pay ransom money to our captors. They beat us mercilessly and threatened to kill us if our families did not pay them the ransom.”
Narrating his unending ordeal in Iran, he said: “During my stay in Iran for nine months with other Afghan children, we suffered a lot there. Other than forced labour, I was also sexually harassed there. In order to overcome mental stress and physical tiredness, we took refuge to sedative drugs such as opium and hashish.”
The young Afghan boy added that “all along our painful stay in Iran, doing backbreaking labour, the memory of our families further saddened us all.”
Sifatullah added that he also tried to search for one of his uncles, who was smuggled into Iran 14 years ago, but could not succeed in finding his whereabouts. Voice trembling with grief, Sifatullah said: “No one knows his whereabouts, he has disappeared.”
Amin, a 15-year old Afghan boy too had a similar story to share. With a grief-stricken tone he said: “I was in Iran for nine months, however, it seemed as if it was 90 years of ordeal, pain and torture. I was sexually abused on many occasion during my stay there.”
He urged families not to be deceived by the smugglers and desist from handing over their children to smugglers. “In doing so, the parents would destroy their children’s lives with their own hands.”
In a note of advise to the Afghanistan government authorities, he suggested that the government should improve security, generate employment opportunities and provide facilities for rescuing people especially the children from the menace of traffickers and conduct awareness programmes lest people do not fall prey to human trafficking.