KABUL: For years just after dawn, both during harsh winter days or hot summer times — men, women and children routinely used to jostle to join the long queue outside Iran’s embassy in Kabul to get a visa for traveling to the country.
The increased rush prompted Tehran to put in place certain restrictions for Afghan travelers such as financial guarantees and return flight tickets.
It would take at least one week for the luckiest ones to get their visa approved and there were hundreds of other Afghans who daily sneaked into neighboring country through illegal and hazardous ways overland.
They escaped to Iran either because of war or poverty back home, for a family reunion or used its territory as transit for making it to Turkey and beyond to Europe.
But since the slapping of US financial and economic sanctions on Iran in August, the numbers of Afghans wishing to travel to Iran has drastically dropped down.
Tehran has eased the visa restrictions too in order to persuade Afghans wishing to go there, according to residents. Afghans who used to go to Iran, legally or illegally for labor jobs, are returning in big numbers and as do some of the Afghan refugees to lived there for decades because of the colossal devaluation of Iran’s currency against dollar or foreign money.
Afghanistan’s economy has also been suffering as a result of crippling US sanctions on Iran since Tehran has been the major trade partner of Afghanistan which imports nearly $2 billion of goods and fuel annually, according to traders.
The effects of the sanctions are hugely felt in Afghanistan’s western region, particularly, Herat, they said.
“Unfortunately, the sanctions have had a direct impact in the western region in terms of imports, exports and transit,” Saad Khatebi, the chief of the Chambers of Commerce of Herat told Arab News.