Turkey changes, and Iranians suffer the consequences

Until a couple of years ago, the Turkish government was proud to be a safe haven for refugees; however, shifting public opinion caused the AKP to lose votes. Iranian freedom fighters are among the ones suffering the consequences.

With a weakening riyal, rising unemployment, and mysterious explosions, the Iranian regime has had to show an iron fist to prevent a possible new wave of street protests. Three young people who participated in 2019 oil protests, Amir Hossein Moradi, Mohammad Rajabi and Saeed Tamjidi, were sentenced to death. The Iranian Supreme Court then upheld the decision. Turkey plays a role in the destiny of these young people. Two of the protesters, Mohammad Rajabi and Saeed Tamjidi, fled to Turkey right after the protests. Sources say they fled to the Turkish resort city of Antalya and applied for asylum there. After spending nearly a month in two different refugee camps, both were returned to Iran by the Turkish Immigration Service and detained the day after their return.

Turkish lawyer Hüseyin Ersöz tweeted that the return of these people by the Turkish authorities is against both Turkish and international law. Since there is the death penalty in Iran, Turkey can not extradite Iranians who seek political asylum in Turkey. Although the incident made it to social media, there had been no explanation from the Turkish authorities. Iranian human rights activist Peyman Aref claims Turkey has become intolerant towards Iranian refugees, and prefers to cooperate with the Iranian authorities rather than granting asylum for political refugees. Aref underlines that Turkey had been the escape route for Iranians who fought against the Islamic regime in Iran since the 1979 revolution; they were able to find refuge in Turkey, and most would then go on to Europe. However, this has been changing. Other cases also signal Turkey’s changing stance towards Iranians.

At the beginning of the spring, the corpse of a young Iranian was discovered in the mountains of Çaldıran, a Turkish town bordering Iran. Karma Guderzi, who was just 17 years old, froze to death on the mountain. He was trying to flee to Germany via Turkey. Throughout his journey, he was in contact with his father, Abbas Guderzi. I spoke with Mr. Guderzi on the phone. He told me that his son was caught by the Turkish police, and he claims that, instead of handing him to the Iranian authorities, the Turkish police left him on the mountain and ordered him to go back to Iran, thus causing his death. He claimed the villagers living on both sides of the border told him that such incidents happen. I contacted the police and they denied having such a record of Kamran Guderzi.

With the arrival of four million Syrian refugees, public opinion towards refugees has been shifting. The population movement coincided at a time of deep economic crisis for Turkey. Turks started to see the cause of unemployment and inflation as Syrians. The Turkish authorities’ stance towards refugees has been changing as well. Until a couple of years ago, the Turkish government was proud to be a safe haven for refugees; however, shifting public opinion caused the AKP to lose votes. In the last local election, the AKP lost major cities to the opposition. Polls show us that one of the reasons voters changed their political preference was the rising number of Syrian refugees. Iranian freedom fighters seem to be suffering the consequences of Turkey’s changing policy towards refugees.

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