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Thursday, 11 June 2009

Urgent - Call to Action: Two Iranian Queer Asylum Seekers Need Your Support

Kayseri MeydanImage by sardic via Flickr

Over the past several years, hundreds of LGBT people have escaped the repressive autocratic regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran, forming a small but colorful jetty in the stream of fleeing religious minorities and political dissidents. Many are resettled in Kayseri, a religious, dull, flat city in the middle of Turkey, sort of the Turkish equivalent of Topeka.

Thousands of refugees live in dingy flats behind the pastel facades, hoping to find a permanent home in this or another country. Among them, there are a few dozen LGBT asylum seekers who, even among these exiles, are exiled.

If everything goes smoothly, refugees will spend two or three years in this semi-existence before moving on to the United States, Canada, Australia, or Europe. It's an interminable wait. Leery of an influx of foreign labor, Turkey won't give refugees work papers or financial or social assistance, even while making them pay taxes.
Refugees are corralled into smaller cities where, perhaps, they are easier to monitor. LGBT refugees are doubly vulnerable. They are discriminated against by merchants, landlords, and employers not only for being Iranian, but for being gay. Yet, in comparison to Iran, Turkey is a square deal. " - Out Magazine, June 2009
Roodabeh is a 30 year-old lesbian who fled Iran for Turkey in February, 2008. Ali is a 29 year-old Iranian gay asylum seeker who escaped in January, 2008. They claimed refugee status on the basis of their sexual orientation and well-known fear of persecution at the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Ankara.

Roodabeh and Ali still have not received refugee status. The common hardships that queer refugees experience are increased for them because they are in a very dire situation. Immediate attention by the UNHCR is critical!

They have been waiting for a UNHCR decision almost 18 months with no financial support. Our Executive Director, Arsham Parsi, traveled to Turkey several times and met with UNHCR staff regarding Iranian queer asylum seekers and their vulnerability issues. But unfortunately because of the large number of cases and limited resources, UNHCR is facing a backlog, the effect of which is devastating for asylum seekers who are living in a terrible situation.

Roodabeh and Ali had a difficult situation in Iran and they escaped to save their lives, but they still have no basic rights.

Please show your support by writing to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and urge them to expedite the refugee process for Roodabeh and Ali. There are two ways you can help:

1. You may copy and paste the sample letters in English into an email and send it to UNHCR; OR
2. You may write your own letter in support of Roodabeh and Ali.

Send your letters to and please cc: IRQR at for tracking purposes.

You can also fax letters to the UNHCR at 0090-312-441-1738, ATTN: Legal Department. If you choose to fax your letter, please email a copy to

Thank you for your support and please send this call for your friends and list
serves to have more support.

To read a portion of Roodabeh and Ali's letters to IRQR about their situation and our sample letter please visit our website at WWW.IRQR.NET

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