Mohammad Hossein Velayati, an Iranian photojournalist working for the Tasnim News Agency, was arrested by the Taliban in Kabul.
Iran was determined “to pursue securing the release of a photojournalist in Afghanistan,” Iranian President’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan Affairs Hassan Kazemi Qomi said earlier this week.
Reports state that Mohammad Hossein Velayati, an Iranian photojournalist working for the Tasnim News Agency, was arrested by the Taliban in Kabul when he was on the way out of Afghanistan.
Iran and Afghanistan have had tensions in the past. However, Iran has sought to mollify concerns about rising tensions because it doesn’t want problems on its eastern border. Iran has in the past backed the Shi’ite minority in Afghanistan and recruited them to fight in Syria as Iran’s proxies.
Iran also supported the US leaving Afghanistan. Iran plays a key and increasing role in Central Asia and has ties with India and Pakistan, countries that also have interests in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan’s significance to Iran
Iran sees Afghanistan as important for trade with China and also because it borders Iran’s north-south trade route. As such the Iranian agenda is not to let this affair grow but they do take seriously the detention of their journalist.
What is known about the Taliban apparently detaining or disappearing the Iranian journalist?
Velayati was snatched “without explanation,” Iranian regime media says. He was legally in Afghanistan and was leaving via an airport after 10 days in the country. “However, when he returned to the Kabul Airport, the Taliban detained him without explanation,” Tasnim said.
Iran has held quiet talks with the Taliban over the last week. Iran’s envoy says that he expects “results soon.” On August 23 Iran said it was vigorously pursuing the release of their journalist from the clutches of the Taliban.
Tasnim News had said that “an Iranian photojournalist working for the Tasnim News Agency, was apprehended by the Taliban in Kabul without explanation. He had legally entered Afghanistan’s capital city via an aerial border crossing and spent ten days there….however, when he returned to the Kabul Airport, the Taliban detained him without explanation. Attempts to obtain an explanation from the Taliban about Velayati’s detention have proved futile.” Tasnim further noted that “given the negative perceptions that Iranians have of the Taliban’s treatment of Iranian journalists, it is expected that the group will act quickly to secure the release of the Iranian photojournalist.”
In the past, Iran has sent “stern warnings” to the Taliban over water issues on the border, according to the same Tasnim News. Back in May Iran’s President went to the border in Sistan and Balouchestan province and said to the “the Afghan authorities and rulers”, that they must immediately provide Iran with its share of water. “I’d remind the rulers of Afghanistan that they should not regard our demand as being ordinary and must take it very seriously,” the president said.
Tolo News noted that “in a statement, the Afghanistan Journalists Center expressed concern over the arrest of Mohammad Hossein Velayati, an Iranian photojournalist, and asked the authorities of the Islamic Emirate to release this photojournalist. The organization also called for an end to the practice of “arresting and harassing” journalists in Afghanistan.” The report went on to note that “based on information from the Afghanistan Journalists Center, at least 11 journalists have been arrested in different regions of the country in the past two weeks, including nine people who are still in prison.”