Afghan Immigrants Running Cozy Café in Downtown...
Afghans began moving to Iran in large numbers after the Soviet invasion in 1979 and they continued to migrate for work through decades of conflict, sending money to relatives back home that helped bolster Afghanistan’s struggling economy. In 2017, there were approximately 2.5 million to 3 million Afghans in Iran.
Due to hard economic situation, the number could be cut in half by the end of 2019. More than 770,000 Afghans left Iran last year as the currency faltered and an extra 570,000 are expected to go this year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in January.
According to the executive guidelines of the Employment Ministry, Afghan refugees in Iran are allowed to be employed in the four job categories declared by this Ministry. But at the same time due to the increase in livelihood challenges as a result of United States unilateral sanctions imposed against Iran, the Iranian government has shown notable flexibilities towards refugees’ jobs and professions.
In this regard the opening of a coffee shop by two Afghan nationals in Tehran drew the attention of the media.
There might be professional Afghan baristas and chefs in Iranian restaurants; however, the Telma café is the first café in Tehran run be a number of young Afghan individuals. The idea of opening the café was that of two young Afghans, namely Fatemeh Jafari and Hamed Azar.
In an interview, they have elaborated on their business and how it all started. “We have not published any special advertisements, yet,” says 21-year-old Jafari, who is a law student. “Our customers post photos of our café on Instagram as story with the caption ‘an interesting café run by Afghan folks’,” she said. “We have not opened the café for Afghan people only. We have many Iranian friends who keep visiting our café. Even on some occasions, half of our customers were Iranian and half Afghans. The café has a friendly atmosphere, too.”
Hamed Azar, the other young Afghan who has contributed to the opening of this café, is a civil engineering student. Like many other Afghan boys, he worked hard when he was young. He used to work as a welder, blacksmith and tailor. He also worked in the recycling industry.
“I used to play for the Karaj football team for some time and I had Iranian playmates. I have had both Iranian and Afghan friends,” said Kefayat Beigi, an Afghan chef in the café. “The rise in the exchange rate for the dollar is for all of us, Afghans and Iranians alike. When I can do something which satisfies me and for which Gods helps me, why should I do it somewhere else? I like Iran. We grew up here,” said Beigi. “I worked professionally and on a full-time basis for around four years except the time I spent at university. A major part of the money [we used to open the café] was our own savings. Of course, we got financial help from our families, too,” he said.
It is notable that with the cooperation of UNHCR, the Iranian government began holding technical and vocational training courses for refugees in Iran which also was welcomed extensively.