A letter from Iranian filmmaker, Mohsen Makhmalbaf to Mr. Khatami, president of Iran, regarding the devastating consequences of expelling Afghani immigrants from Iran.
Dear Mr. Khatami
The Iranian people seem to have given up on their two-decade old Afghani guests and suddenly decided to disregard the human and political consequences of expelling them from Iran. During the past twenty years, approximately 30% of the people of Afghanistan have emigrated from their homeland due to hunger and the lack of basic safety. This means that the fate of a people struck by war and hunger has suddenly passed a stern verdict upon them. A verdict to leave, but only 30% of them have had the capability to comply with that verdict.
The Iranian people have hosted some 2.5 million refugees which constitutes about 40% of the total number of Afghani people who have been forced to flee their country but has extended a warm welcome of hospitality, for which the Iranian people are famed for around the world, to the hungry and war stricken people of Afghanistan. Now, and without the causes for the continued devastation of hunger and war to have diminished, the Iranian people have decided to expel them immediately. Such an action may only be interpreted as an act of desperation rather than thoughtful deliberation. Most importantly, under severe drought and famine, that requires more than ever, the attention and help of the international community, especially the neighbors.
We, the Iranian people, have forgotten that if we have become weary of hosting, our guests, the refugees from Afghanistan must also be desperately tired of living an uncertain life of aimless migration and would never have faced the humiliation if they could do anything to avoid it. I am pleading to you not as a film maker and not as a person, but as a witness on behalf of your proven compassionate conscience to take note of the reasons that have caused the streets of Harat to be paved with the dead bodies of those Afghani people who can no longer bear the devastation brought upon them.
Maybe the following statistics can bring to light, the catastrophe that has entangled the Afghani people;
1 In the past twenty years, the Afghani people have suffered 2.5 million deaths due to hunger and war. This is evidence to the fact that Afghanistan is an unsuitable living environment in which any person faces a ten percent chance of certain death or severe injury. Hence, for the past twenty years and without interruption, an Afghani person has died or been killed every five minutes.
2 There have been over 6.5 million Afghani refugees in the past 20 years which means that over 30 percent of the Afghani population were forced to leave their homeland. In statistical terms, one Afghani is forced to leave their country due to War and/or famine, every minute for the past twenty years.
3 The migration, as well as the death rate, has increased in the past few years due to the severe drought and according to recent United Nations statistics, Afghanistan will face a full-blown famine in the next year. According to the same statistics and forecasts, the Afghani famine in the next year, will be more severe and devastating that that of Africa 25 years go. However, the international community, so entangled in local matters of interest, that despite the availability of highly efficient mass media and information services, has completely disregarded this devastation. Today’s “global village” cannot even live up to the standards it set for itself when the international community responded to the African famine 25 years ago.
The destruction of the Buddha monuments have been more upsetting to the people of the world than the death of millions of Afghanis. If the international community has chosen to remain ignorant towards the fate of other peoples due to local and national issues of their own, we as Iranians cannot remain impartial to the devastation that has struck the Afghani people, a people that only 250 years ago, were part of Iran and if that geo-political separation had not have occurred, we would be speaking of the Afghani plight as part of our own.
4 The deported Afghani people are left with no other fate than to die in the famine unless, and in the case of the very few who chose to join the narcotics mafia in order to secure a chance of survival for their families or to enslave themselves to the causes of radical local sects that continue to fan the inferno of civil war. An inferno that will most certainly affect the people of Iran. The Iranian and Afghani people share a close and common cultural heritage. The distance between our people has been repeatedly traveled by the small feet of Afghani children, sometimes to us and sometimes away from us.
As the president of Iran, you have shown exceptional wisdom in deterring a senseless conflict between Iran and Afghanistan not too long ago. This wisdom is required again to find solutions to the causes of immigration among the Afghani people. Even if it happens that the people of Iran remain unable to deal with the situation and contribute to an amicable solution, we must remain patient to our guests at least until the end of the famine.
I must insist to you that the deportation of the Afghani people means to send millions of helpless humans to die in a land of famine and war. This forced return will rapidly neutralize the positive affects of the world famous Persian hospitality that has been extended to our Afghani neighbors in the past twenty years and in the very near future, your compassionate soul will mourn the ill fated destiny of your Afghani neighbors.