LONDON: Three Iranian refugees face being deported from Turkey after they were arrested for taking part in a demonstration against Ankara’s withdrawal from the Istanbul convention on violence against women.
Lily Faraji, Zeinab Sahafi and Ismail Fattahi were arrested after attending a protest in the southern Turkish city of Denizli in March 2021, British newspaper The Guardian reported.
Another Iranian, Mohammad Pourakbari, was detained with the others despite not attending the protests, their lawyer Buse Bergamali said, adding that they were taken from their homes, and had been photographed by the police while demonstrating and later identified.
The group was charged with “disturbing public order” and “participating in unlawful demonstrations.”
Turkish authorities ruled earlier this month that the Iranians could be deported after they lost their appeal against a deportation order issued in April 2021.
Three of the group had been granted conditional refugee status, making it illegal to return them to Iran, Bergamali said.
“However, there is no indication in the court decision that these people cannot be sent back to Iran,” she added.
Police in Turkey have responded brutally to people demonstrating against the country’s withdrawal from the convention, which aims to prevent violence against women and protect victims.
The deportation order comes amid increasing concerns over Turkey’s treatment of Iranian dissidents and asylum seekers.
There are at least 24,300 Iranian dissidents and asylum seekers in Turkey, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
An estimated 67,000 Iranians live in Turkey, with numbers rising in recent years as some flee persecution while others try to avoid US sanctions on Iran by buying property and claiming Turkish citizenship.
Bergamali said the four Iranians who face deportation have been fighting to remain in Turkey despite conditions for Iranians worsening.
“They are fighting for their lives. They came to Turkey to survive. They’re trying to stay here so as not to die,” she said.
Iranian dissidents in Turkey have increasingly said they no longer feel safe in the country. In 2020, feminist activist Maryam Shariatmadari was briefly detained by police in Denizli after fleeing Iran two years earlier after protesting against being forced to wear a hijab.
Turkish authorities initially said Shariatmadari had been arrested because her visa had expired and she could be deported to Iran, where she would have faced torture or even the death penalty, according to human rights groups. She was allowed to renew her Turkish visa, and was released after a public outcry.