A conservative newspaper in Tehran says the knife attack on clerics in Mashhad this week was an outcome of Iran's "wrong policy" about Afghan immigration.

An Afghan immigrant attacked three clerics at the most important Shiite shrine in Iran April 5 in what President Ebrahim Raisi has called a “Takfiri” assault, referring to Sunni extremists.

Calling the incident " a terrorist attack", the Jomhuri Eslami said in its editorial on Thursday, this is only one of the negative consequences of the Iranian government's "easy approach" to the takeover of Taliban in Afghanistan.

The daily also claimed that "Taliban elements have brought all sorts of weapons to Iran and have prepared places to recruit Takfiri elements," and called all this part of a special plot to carry out the conspiracies hatched by the enemies of the Islamic Republic.

Demographic danger

According to Jomhuri Eslami, "some 8 million Afghans are living in Iran and every day at least another 10,000 Afghans arrive legally or illegally. The daily also revealed that Iranian officials issue up to 7,000 visas to Afghans every day while the borders are left open for immigrants to enter illegally.

If this estimate of the Afghan population in Iran is correct, it means around 10 percent of the country’s 83-million population is comprised of Afghan nationals. Some even argue that Iran’s actual population is much less than what the government claims, since millions have left the country for good.

The daily added that most Afghan immigrants are Pashtuns, and that up to 75 percent of births in hospitals in Tehran and its suburbs are registered by Afghans. The birth rate among Afghan women in Iran is between 4.7 to 5.2, the daily reported, adding that there are 600,000 Afghan students at government schools, while officials predict that this number will rise to 1.2 million next year.

A group wedding of Afghans in Iran. Women sit separate from the men.

As a result, the daily warned, that the demographic combination of provinces such as Esfahan, Yazd, Kerman and Sistan-Baluchestan is changing and some 35 percent of the population in some areas are Afghans. This is evident around the Revolution Square, Azadi Square and the Persian Gulf Lake near Tehran.

Jomhouri Eslami further claimed that with the 2019 legislation granting Iranian citizenship to the children of Iranian women marrying foreigners, a tsunami of “buying Iranian girls and women” from poor families has started in Iran.

The daily warned that the combination of these changes will lead to an uncontrollablesocial catastrophe including insecurity in the near future.

Taliban Infilteration

The editorial noted that although the Taliban had committed many crimes in the first round of their takeover in 2001, including murdering two dozen Iranian diplomats in Mazar-i Sharif, Iranian officials welcomed the second Taliban takeover eight months ago, claiming that the Taliban have changed. The daily also warned that the Taliban is not an entity separate from the ISIS. "You cannot separate the Taliban from the ISIS, in the same way that you cannot separate the United States from Satan," the editorial said.

Earlier, even before the attack at the shrine in Mashhad, Iranian observers, including Jomhouri Eslami's editor Masih Mohajeri had warned that uncontrolled immigration of Afghans into Iran might lead to an infiltration by the Taliban and ISIS militants that will threaten Iran's security. The daily, as well as commentators in other media outlets in Iran had also warned that the influx of Pashtuns into Iran might lead to disputes and even conflicts between Iranian Shiites and Afghan Sunnis.

Iranians traditionally support the Hazarah and Tajik communitiess of Afghanistan who speak the same language as Iranians, but do not trust Pashtuns who live further down in southern Afghanistan.

The daily stressed that "The Taliban has not changed during the past 20 years and is still the same terrorist group." Jomhouri Eslami further called for replacing all the pro-Taliban Iranian officials at the Iranian embassy in Kabul and the Iranian Foreign Ministry. It also called on Iran's state television to replace its policy of “beautifying the Taliban” with real news dissemination. "Iran should be purged from Afghan infiltrators, the borders with Afghanistan should come under strict control and Iran should recognize only an Afghan government that comes to power through a free and fair election," the editorial concluded.

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