SLUG: 5-51565 Afghanistan Refugees/Iran
TITLE=AFGHANISTAN REFUGEES / IRAN
DATELINE=ISLAM QALA, AFGHANISTAN
///EDS: FIRST IN A SERIES OF TWO BACKGROUNDERS ON DISPLACED PEOPLE IN WESTERN AFGHANISTAN///
INTRO: Officials in Afghanistan say with peace and stability restored in much of the country, many of Afghanistan's nearly four million refugees are returning home. Refugee officials say nearly one-half million Afghan refugees have returned in the past two months. Most of them are coming from Pakistan. But, in the past three weeks, 30 thousand refugees in Iran have also returned and their numbers are increasing. Correspondent Scott Bobb reports from the Islam Qala refugee reception center, on the border between Iran and Afghanistan.
TEXT: ///SOUND OF BUS ARRIVING, BRAKES, DOOR SLAMS, TALKING/// The refugees begin arriving minutes after Iran's border post opens in the morning. They come on special buses that shuttle all day between the Iranian border post, 200-meters away, and this compound of white tents pitched on a treeless no-man's land between the two borders. The returnees, as they are called, climb down from the bus. U-N staff tell them how to proceed. /// LOUDSPEAKER IN DARI, DOOR OPENS, PEOPLE GET OUT, GREETINGS/// They go to the reception center, in two large tents. The families sit down in one tent and wait. /// SOUND OF CHILDREN TALKING, CRYING /// The heads-of-family go to register in the tent next door. Days before, these people told U-N refugee officials in Iran that they were ready to go home. They registered and were given traveling documents. They present these papers to be signed by a U-N official and then pass outside, refugees no more.
Golava is an architect who fled to Iran several years ago after the Taliban took control of western Afghanistan. He says he is glad to be back in his country. /// GOLAVA ACT. IN DARI/// Mr. Golava says he has come back to help re-build Afghanistan. He hopes to find work in the construction industry that everyone says is now reviving. Refugees in Iran only began returning a few weeks ago, but already this center is processing 25-hundred of them a day. Officials say they expect the rate of returnees to increase next month when the school year ends in Iran. /// OPT. /// Refugees officials say nearly half of the returnees from Iran are single men, unlike those from Pakistan who are almost all families. They fled to Iran either because they supported the Mujahideen, that fought the Taliban, or they were looking for jobs. /// END OPT. /// Golam Salvar fled to Tehran with his family-of-five several years ago. He says Taliban soldiers were harassing men whom they suspected of supporting their enemy, the Mujahideen. ///SALVAR IN DARI /// Mr. Salvar says three years ago he was a Mujahid. And when the Taliban arrived, they told him to hand over his weapons. So he decided to leave.
/// OPT. ///Mr. Salvar says life in Iran, however, was not easy either. There was discrimination against Afghans. People would tell him to go home. /// END OPT. /// The Director of the Islam Qala reception center, Mohim Khurram, says people believe the situation has improved in Afghanistan and as a result they want to resume their normal lives. ///KHURRAM ACT. /// Now it is a step towards reconstruction of the country, peace and stability. Since all of them are returning voluntarily, it means they are hopeful, and they are optimistic about the future of Afghanistan. ///END ACT. ///
While the returnees are having their papers processed, the trucks that brought them from Iran have crossed to the other side of the reception center with their luggage. When the returnees come out of the center, they transfer their belongings to Afghan trucks provided by relief agencies.
/// SOUND OF TRUCK STARTING, REVS, HORN BLOWS/// The returnees are given free transportation home and about ten dollars per person in cash. When they reach their destination, they will also receive some food and items like cooking pots and plastic sheeting for shelter.
/// SOUND OF TRUCK, REVVING, LEAVES /// Everyone is excited and in a hurry to get on the road. The trip to the provincial capital, Herat, 125-kilometers away, will take five hours because of the poor condition of the roads. Many returnees are going to Heart, but others are crossing the country to Kabul, 12-hundred kilometers away. Their journey will take several days. Once home, the returnees will face more hardships. Officials say the next big task is to reintegrate them into their communities, to provide them with health services, educational opportunities and jobs. In a country shattered by a quarter-century of war, the task is daunting. But for now, there is happiness here, because despite the uncertainties ahead, these people are going home. (Signed)
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