A large group of asylum-seeking Kurds in Stockholm have gone on hunger strike with some sewing their lips together in a desperate attempt to try and stop their removal to Iran
The men and women, who are also with their children, have been refusing food since 25 September.
They are political activists who have worked hard for human rights and for introducing democracy in Iran. As a result of their activities and their membership in various Kurdish political parties, they were forced to flee Iran and take refuge in Sweden.
Despite having been in the country for up to eight years, and despite having photos and documents from the Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that confirm the obvious threat to their lives, the Swedish Migration Board has rejected their applications to stay in Sweden.
Their condition is deteriorating for every hour that passes - five men have already collapsed from hunger and been taken to the hospital.
One of those who sewed his lips together said:
“I am not treated as a human being. Most of us here have the same problem. The Migration Board does not understand our situation, they refuse to listen. We want to know why we have been refused a residence permit. Everybody here would rather die of starvation than be sent back.”One of the photos pinned to a tent in which they are staying shows an Kurdish teacher in Iran, Farzad Kamangar, surrounded by some twenty children. Kamangar was executed three months ago for having taught the children to read and speak Kurdish. Another picture shows another Kurd, Shirin Alanholi, who was executed because she wanted freedom and democracy in Iran.
“We have begged and shouted, but the Migration Board has not listened. Now we will silence our voices, perhaps then they will listen”.
The Iranian Penal code detains and prosecutes political refugees who are returned to Iran.
Last year the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg ruled that Sweden’s deportation of an Iranian was in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Despite this, Sweden has repeatedly made unlawful deportations.
Last December I reported on how the removal by Sweden of a lesbian Kurdish couple from Iraq had only been stopped by a ECHR ruling.
Iranian refugee activists have also been engaged with protesting the removal of asylum seekers from Norway, and abuse of Iranian refugees in Cyprus. In July, Cypriot police officers and other Cypriot authorities violently assaulted a group of Iranian and other refugees, including a 72 year old man, held in Larnaca detention center. Neither the government of Cyprus nor the UNHCR has taken any substantive action.
Iranian refugees in Greece have also gone on hunger strike in protest at their treatment and sewn their lips together. Refugees in Athens and other Greek cities have suffered repeated and violent vigilante attacks.