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Saturday, 16 April 2011

First Athens, now Croydon: Iranian asylum seekers on hunger strike

Source: Croydon Advertiser

By Gareth Davies

Six failed asylum seekers are starving themselves to death outside Lunar House in protest at human rights abuses in Iran.

For the past eleven days the men have been on hunger strike outside the headquarters of the UK Border Agency in Wellesley Road.

Several of them have been taken to hospital after collapsing during the protest, which they are holding from a tent erected on the pavement.

One of them, 17-year-old Mahyar Meyari, has sewn his mouth together using a needle and thread and says he is willing to die rather than be sent back to prison or execution in Iran.

His brother Mehran Meyari, 20, is also on hunger strike after being told his application for political asylum has been rejected.

Standing beside a poster emblazoned with the words 'asylum protection not forced return', he told the Advertiser:
"I will do this as long as it takes. I do not fear death. Life means nothing without freedom."
"If I go home I will die. This is clear to me. So we will stay here until someone listens."
The protestors, who are all from Iran, are members of Green Wave Voice, an organisation protesting against the results of the Iranian presidential election in 2009.

They claim the results were rigged to secure the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which sparked protests across Iran and in major cities across the world.

Mehran, who used to live in London Road, West Croydon, came to the UK in 2006 to escape political persecution.

He is now sleeping in a tent, adorned with banners reading 'Please help us' and 'Human rights for all', alongside Mahyar, Kiavash Bahari, 26, Morteza Bayat, 30 and Ahmad Sadeghi, 55.

Another man, 30-year-old Keyvan Bahari, was taken to hospital on Wednesday by concerned paramedics.

Mehran said he was willing to die for what he believed in and cited the example of friend Kambiz Roustayi, 36, who burnt himself to death last week after being told he had to return to Iran after ten years of living in Amsterdam.

Interpreting for protesters outside Lunar House, Hamid Farid, 46, who has lived in London for 20 years, said they had no other option but to risk their lives to stay in the UK.

He explained:
"This is what happens when the authorities refuse to listen, refuse to believe you are in danger.

"At present it is not important to them if they die because they are as good as dead if they go back.

"There is no life for them there."
A spokesman for the UK Border Agency said:
"We are aware of these incidents and regret that the individuals concerned have taken this action. The relevant authorities have been informed."
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