People fleeing the Taliban are kidnapped and tortured along Iran-Turkey border, BBC report

An investigative report by the BBC has shed light on the harrowing experiences faced by people fleeing the Taliban, who are being kidnapped and subjected to torture by smugglers and criminal networks along the Iran-Turkey border on their journey to Europe.

According to the report, once these gangs capture the migrants, they film their abuse and send videos to their families, demanding a ransom for their release.

One migrant, quoted by the BBC, pleaded, “Whoever watches this video, I was kidnapped yesterday, they are demanding $4,000 (£3,200) for each one of us. They beat us day and night non-stop.”

Another video captured a man crying out, “I have family, don’t do this to me; I have a wife and children, have mercy, please,” moments before he was sexually abused at knifepoint by one of the gangs.

The migrant trail from Iran to Turkey cuts across treacherous mountainous terrain devoid of shade, making it increasingly challenging for the migrants to evade the patrolling security forces.

With hundreds of thousands of Afgha fleeing since the Taliban’s resurgence, criminal gangs have seized the opportunity to profit from the growing number of people undertaking this perilous journey.

The BBC’s investigative team has gathered stories of torture from at least ten locations along the Turkish border. An activist documenting these abuses revealed that he receives two or three such videos of torture on a daily basis.

One migrant shared with the BBC that the gangs sent him a video depicting the torture of an Afghan migrant after they had kidnapped his daughter and other family members. The desperate man recounted, “This was the situation I was in. By sending these videos, they were warning me. If you don’t pay the ransom, we will kill your daughters and your son-in-law.”

Turkish human rights lawyer Mahmut Kagan affirmed that Turkey’s practice of forcibly returning asylum seekers over the border into Iran violates international law. He stated, “It’s very much related to the pushbacks – those violations – because it creates a fragile group open to all forms of abuses.”

Ahmad, a young man, shared his family’s tragic experience with the BBC. His brother and his family were kidnapped on the Iranian side of the border while attempting to escape the Taliban last year. Ahmad received a call from the gang demanding a ransom. He recalled, “I said we don’t have money, the kidnapper beat my brother. We could hear it down the line.”

Despite this horrifying ordeal, Ahmad embarked on the same journey himself six months later, undeterred by the trauma his family had endured.

The BBC’s attempts to obtain a response from Turkish officials regarding these allegations went unanswered. Similarly, the BBC’s efforts to approach the Iranian government for their actions against these criminal networks along the border did not yield a response.