Legalizing Marriage to Afghans

Legalizing Marriage to Afghans
Legalizing Marriage to Afghans

The Iranian Embassy in Kabul has announced that its consulates in Afghanistan would register the marriages of Iranian women with Afghan men.

In a statement, the embassy asked Afghans married to Iranian women, to register their marriages at the Iranian consulates in Herat, Kandahar, Jalalabad and Mazar-e-Sharif, IRNA reported.

Iranian women married to Afghan men, most of whom are refugees residing in Iran, face several problems including denial of birth certificates to their children. The marriages have several adverse social and economic consequences, especially for children left in limbo as they face an identity crisis. Reports have it that some families due to poverty and poor economic status force their daughters to marry Afghan men in exchange for “petty monetary gains.”

According to official figures, at present there are 32,000 children in the country who don’t have birth certificates. Most of them are children of Iranian mothers and non-Iranian fathers.

According to Abbas Qaedi Rahmat, spokesman of the Majlis (parliament) Social Commission, one million people in the country don’t have birth certificates as their Iranian mothers are married to illegal immigrants, mostly Afghan refugees, and therefore their identity is anonymous. The number of people nine years ago without birth ID cards was said to be 200,000, he said.

People lacking birth certificates can create serious social and economic problems for the nation. They also don’t have basic rights that most people take for granted, such as education and health services, the MP says.

Official data also show that marriages of 30,000 Iranian women with Afghan men have been registered, but the real number of such marriages is much higher.

Most of the Afghan men took refuge in Iran either after the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, or following the Afghan civil war in the 1990s and the US-led invasion in 2001. During these decades Iran was host to nearly four million Afghan refugees.

Registering the marriages at the Iranian consulates in Afghanistan will help Afghan men to legalize their marriage with Iranian women, and also make it easier for them to get visas to visit Iran. Further, it will help address the problem of children who will otherwise continue to face the question of identity.

Abbas Ahmidi, Iran’s consulate general in Kabul, told IRNA that marriage registration will also legalize residence of Iranian women in Afghanistan.


One of the basic tasks of Iranian missions (as representatives of Iran’s National Organization for Civil Registration-NOCR) in different countries is to register marriages of Iranians with foreign nationals. The measure aims to legalize overseas marriages and provide specific facilities to foreign spouses.

According to Article 51 of the Family Protection Law, any foreigner who marries an Iranian woman without the permission of the Iranian government, will be sentenced to 2-5 years in prison plus a cash penalty.

Ahmidi said that “registration of Iranian marriages with foreign nationals in Iranian consulates across the world is nothing new; however, in this case (of Afghans) an official notification has been issued.”

This is due to the fact that millions of Afghans live and work in Iran, legally and illegally, despite the efforts of the government and the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, to repatriate them.  Iran continues to host one of the largest and most protracted refugee populations in the world, although the voluntary return of millions of Afghan (and thousands of Iraqi) refugees to their countries of origin over the past decade has been expedited.

With the difficult economic conditions in the country, rampant joblessness and the added burden of years of painful US, UN, EU sanctions, Tehran wants the Afghans to leave sooner rather than later. But it seems its calls and appeals to the government in Kabul and the international community responsible for their voluntary return has fallen on deaf ears.


  Citizenship Law

According to the Iranian nationality law, children born to Iranian mothers and non-Iranian fathers can apply for citizenship after 18 years of residence in Iran. But, if their parents’ marriage is not registered, there is no possibility of making such a request.

The number of Iranian girls’ married to Afghan men is significantly high. The marriages mostly occur in the border areas, including in Sistan-Baluchestan and Khorasan Razavi provinces, and also in the southern parts of Kerman and Tehran provinces. Unofficial statistics indicate the marriage of 20,000 girls from Mashhad with foreign nationals, mostly Afghans, since there is huge settlement for refugees in the holy city, where the shrine of the 8th Shia Imam Reza (AS) is located.

There are reportedly up to 40,000 marriages between Afghan men and Iranian women, who cannot pass on their citizenship to their foreign husbands or to their children. As a result, up to 100,000 children of such marriages lack Iranian birth certificates and identity documents. A legal amendment was passed in 2006, which allows children born in Iran to Iranian mothers to apply for citizenship on reaching the age of 18, under certain conditions, which include registration of the marriage with the competent state authority. However, at least 26,000 marriages of Iranian women and Afghan men are unregistered, leaving them in a legal limbo, according to, the online portal of the Center for Iranian Studies at Columbia University, New York.

  Changing Trend

It should also be noted that in the past few years the trend in marriages has reversed, and the number of Iranian men married to Afghan girls has increased.

As per figures from NOCR, during the first nine months of the previous Iranian calendar year (ended March 20, 2015), nearly 560 marriages between Iranian men and foreign nationals, mostly Afghan women, were registered, indicating a 23.6% increase over the same period a year earlier.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are 950,000 registered Afghan citizens living in Iran at present, and provided legal status by the Iranian government. They cannot obtain Iranian citizenship or permanent residency, and live under time-limited condition of stay.