Iran Country Liaison

Maryam Sadat Sharifian, State University at Buffalo

Report from August 2015

Over the past several decades, the communist coup, the rise of the Taliban, other changes have led to insecurity and increasing numbers of Afghan refugees.  The Islamic Republic of Iran, as Afghanistan’s closest neighbor has become the main destination for Afghan refugees. It is common to observe Afghan refugees on the streets of Iranian cities. The refugees have become an accepted part of the community.  

The population of refugees and immigrants from Afghanistan has been gradually increasing.  As in any other country faced with such a volume of immigrants, challenges do occur. One of the main issues lies in ensuring the right to education of the refugees, which particularly effects children. Despite the accommodations made by Iranian authorities, Afghan refugees still experience challenges in the field of education. The cost of education and the lack of legal documents are identified as two major obstacles to providing education for Afghan refugees in Iran.

Currently, some progress has been made in order to facilitate the education of refugee children. On 19 May 2015, Ayatollah Khamenei, The Superme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued an order regarding education support for Afghan’s children. He stated, “Any Afghan children, even illegal immigrants without documents, who are present in Iran, should not be kept out of school and all of them must be enrolled in Iranian schools”.

With this announcement, the Ministry of Interior set a seven-day ultimatum, namely that all Afghan refugees, with or without legal documents, must register their school-age children (ages 7 to 18 years) with the government. According to the Government of the Islamic Republic, this is a free education opportunity for children. Iran has no plans for the identification and registration of Afghan nationals convicted of illegal entry.  Previously, only Afghan children who had approved refugee/immigrant/citizen status were able to attend school.  Progress to provide free education opens the doors of hope to a brighter future for Afghan children in Iran.