Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Iranian Christian Asylum Seeker Burned by Employer in Turkey

It's fascinating that the United Nations refugee agency is apparently employing Muslims to assess claims for asylum even when the applicants are converts from Islam fleeing Muslim prejudice against apostates.
Iranian Christian Asylum Seeker Burned by Employer in Turkey


Pressures and threats against Christian converts are increasing tremendously inside Iran. Severe sentences are being issued for converts with an Islamic background and this is the primary reason these converts flee their homeland and apply to the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for refugee status. However, it seems that UNHCR decision makers do not understand the seriousness of this issue.

Iranian Christian news agency, Mohabat News notes that before the Islamic revolution all religious minorities, including Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians could conveniently and securely speak about their faith. After the Islamic revolution and after the Islamic regime came to power, although it stressed freedom of religion, this was just one side of the story. The regime proceeded to break its own constitution, generated a terrorizing atmosphere and put growing pressure on churches through its security organizations.

People with different beliefs, especially Christians, were subjected to arrest, imprisonment, threat and torture. The string of executions of outstanding Iranian Christian figures and pastors is a prime example of that. The laws are even being tightened more and more as time goes by. Such pressures and threats as well as heavy sentences cause Christian converts with an Islamic background to flee their homeland and seek refuge through the UNHCR office in Ankara. However, interviewers and decision makers at the UNHCR fail to understand their grievous situations and often turn down their asylum appeals.

Yousef Fallah Ranjbar is one of these asylum seekers who is currently awaiting a decision on his case in Turkey. Like other asylum seekers in Turkey, Fallah Ranjbar had to work in order to survive. However he was brutally assaulted by his Turkish employer with hot water and his body was severely burned.

In a recent contact with the Association in Support of Iranian Asylum Seekers in Turkey, Ranjbar related some tragic facts and explained what has happened to him during these years.

- Leaving Iran

Ranjbar stated that he left Iran legally in December 2008 because of problems he faced because of his Christian faith. He waited four months after his application to the UNHCR was registered. His case was reviewed during this period. After this four month period he received an appointment date for his first interview. Then he waited another full year without receiving any response from the UNHCR. After that year he was informed that his statements during the interview were not acceptable.

He says, "I went to the Helsinki organization (a consultant organization) and submitted an appeal. After a long delay, I went to the UNHCR again for my second interview. There I found out that the same interviewer who had conducted my first interview and knew nothing about Christianity, had been appointed again for my renewal interview." Ranjbar explained that because the interviewer had mocked his faith during the first interview, he refused to proceed with the renewal interview when he realized that the interviewer was the same person. This refusal cost him another long wait until his case was closed by the UNHCR in early 2011 and he was deprived of another chance to prove his claims.

Ranjbar continued, "I had to continuously work 14 hours per day for a maximum of 20 Turkish Liras in the worst conditions i.e. cold winters and hot summers. I am a barber and my hands were not prepared for such hard labour. However, I had to work as labourer in buildings moving 50 KG bags of cement as much as a full container and work in restaurants, etc."

- Burned by Turkish employer

The extreme religious views of his Turkish employer resulted in Ranjbar's rights being violated. After Ranjbar asked for his pay several times, his employer emphatically told him that he had no rights and that he would not pay him any money. Ranjbar said "Then the employer and several other workers attacked and beat me before spilling hot water all over my body." After Ranjbar was burned, he went directly to the police station to file a complaint and bring the guilty one to justice. However the trial was postponed to another time because the employer didn't appear for the hearing. After months of waiting the case is still pending.

Ranjbar is just one example of hundreds of Iranian Christian asylum seekers who are living in such situations in Turkey. Unfortunately, the lack of adequate knowledge by some UNHCR officials regarding the seriousness of such situations, especially in religious cases, as well as the unresponsiveness of related organizations regarding the special situation of Christian converts in a country like Turkey, are just some of the problems that asylums seekers are suffering from.

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