Are Shiites united in Afghanistan and Iran?

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MARCO WERMAN: There are plenty of Persian speakers in Afghanistan, Iran's neighbor. Many are Shiite Muslims. Shiites are a minority in Afghanistan, so it might seem that Afghan Shiites would feel kinship with the majority Shiites in Iran right now. But as The World's Aaron Schachter reports, the situation is more complicated than that.

AARON SCHACHTER: People gathered today at a small mosque in the Shia district of Kabul. Conspicuously absent from the prayers here was any mention of politics. You might think that Shiites here would care a lot about what's going on in the Shiite Islamic republic of Iran. You'd be wrong. �Does anyone here care what happened in Iran elections? Raise their hand.� One person, one person � two people care. Two out of a dozen men raise their hands, and the rest of the group starts yelling at the other two. This is Ahmed Zia.

AHMED ZIA: Yeah. They say all of them, they are angry about it.

SCHACHTER: They're angry about the way Iran has treated Afghan Shiite refugees for the past several decades, even as Iranian clerics maintain Iran is the spiritual home and defender of Shiites worldwide. Around the corner from the mosque at the Naga Internet Club, some young men bring up a YouTube video of demonstrations in Tehran. Mohammed Aleem is following what's going on in Iran, though he's also no fan of the Iranian leadership. He says the violence in Iran could be dangerous for Afghans.

ALEEM: We are happy that our neighbors of Afghanistan should be peaceful and make a better living. And also, I want that they should help Afghan people for making peace and security, not only in Kabul but all other provinces of Afghanistan.

SCHACHTER: Another Afghan Shiite here, Ali Habibi, lived in Iran for 16 years. He says it's a Western misperception that Shiites here see Iran as their protector.

ALEEM: Afghans, many Shias, they've been to Iran. They lived there. They have reached the idea that Iran cannot be the center � I mean, the place of defending Shias. They cannot � maybe before that, I'm sure, like 30 years ago, their grandparents and many people were believing so. But not now.

SCHACHTER: But it must be said that in a country where Shias are a distinct minority, it may not be in their interest to publicly profess a love for Iran. That's because many in the majority Pashtun community accuse Iran of helping to fund the Taliban insurgency as a way to keep the West bogged down in Afghanistan. For The World, I'm Aaron Schachter, in Kabul.