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Killing Of Afghan Girl Prompts Outrage In Iran

A pictured shared on social media of the Afghan migrant girl Setayesh Qoreishi who was killed outside Tehran on April 10.
A pictured shared on social media of the Afghan migrant girl Setayesh Qoreishi who was killed outside Tehran on April 10.

In Iran, which hosts at least 1 million Afghan refugees and seasonal laborers, the fate of an Afghan migrant doesn't normally make media headlines.

The slaying of a six-year-old girl outside Tehran is a tragic exception.

Setayesh Qoreishi was allegedly killed by her teenage Iranian neighbor in Varamin, prompting an outpouring of angry responses from ordinary Iranians, prominent figures, and officials alike.

Reports have circulated on social media that the girl was sexually assaulted prior to her killing, adding to the outrage. But while police say a 17-year-old teenager confessed to murder during interrogation, they have not confirmed whether a sexual assault occurred.

The investigation reportedly continues into the April 10 killing, and autopsy results are expected to be released this week.

Many Iranians took to social media to condemn the crime, while dozens joined Afghan nationals in an unauthorized but peaceful protest outside the Afghan Embassy in Tehran before it was dispersed by police.

WATCH: Police Break Up A Protest For Setayesh Qoreishi Tehran.

Vice President Shahindokht Mowlaverdi condemned the killing as a "despicable murder" and said there would be a "punishment appropriate to the magnitude of the horrific crime."

"The shocking news of the murder of a six-year-old Afghan girl in Varamin has made my heart ache," Mowlaverdi wrote on her Facebook page.

Mowlaverdi added that the family of the murderer should "bear the shame and the guilt of such an inhumane act on their conscience for the rest of their lives."

Mowlaverdi said "the vast media coverage and huge public reaction to this news a week on reflect the depth of the tragedy."

The father of the victim, Sher Agha Qoreishi, told Iranian media that his daughter left home at midday on April 10 to buy sweets from a nearby shop, and never returned.

Qoreishi, a migrant laborer who left his native Afghanistan 16 years ago, said he was at work when his wife called to say she was worried.

After checking relatives' homes and searching the neighborhood throughout the night, the family contacted the police the following morning.Soon, police found the body.

The devastated family has asked for the death penalty for their daughter's killer.

Qoreishi says the family is receiving many messages of sympathy and condolence both from Iranians and the Afghan community.

However, he pointed out that Iranian media was initially slow to report on the crime.

"If the victim had been an Iranian and the murderer had been an Afghan would the media have remained indifferent to it?" quoted him as saying.

Prominent Iranian poet and songwriter Yaghma Golrouee was among those who took to social media to express his alarm. Posting a photo of himself on Instagram donning an Afghan hat, he wrote: "I am a friend of the Afghan people."

He went on to criticize what he described as a prejudice against Afghan migrants in Iran:

"Admit it or not, we are racist people, proud of our history and old civilizations and ancient kings," he wrote.

Hassan Khomeini, a reformist cleric and grandson of Islamic republic founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, wrote: "In this era of information explosions, it's quite strange that we heard about this bitter news so late."

Khomeini said "there is no difference between an Afghan girl and Iranian girl" in such tragedies.The cleric added that "it's much more difficult and painful for those who deal with such grief in the loneliness of a foreign land."

Eastern Tehran police chief Abdol Reza Naziri, meanwhile, has vowed that law-enforcement officers take the "utmost seriousness in dealing with the murder case."

"We promised the family of Setayesh that we consider their little daughter as our own," Naziri was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.

"The police want the maximum penalty for the murderer," he said.

A local lawmaker in Varamin, Hussain NaghaviHussaini, said that the victim's nationality doesn't make any difference in the eyes of Iran's justice system, saying that Setayesh's killer would be dealt with "according to the laws of the Islamic republic."

Meanwhile, I Am Setayesh, a Facebook page created in honor of the young victim, attracted more than 10,000 likes within days and hundreds of comments by Iranians and Afghans.

Written by Farangis Najibullah with contributions by RFE/RL Radio Farda correspondent Niusha Boghrati

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    Farangis Najibullah

    Farangis Najibullah is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who has reported on a wide range of topics from Central Asia, including the region’s ongoing struggle with the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact. She has extensively covered efforts by Central Asian states to repatriate their citizens who joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.