Turkish police beat 2 gay Iranian refugees

IRQO LogoIn a country that LGBT Iranian refugees are finding increasingly hostile, two gay Iranian men were severely beaten on Jan. 26 by a police officer at the police station in a town (name withheld to protect the men) in southern Turkey.

The two men are same-sex partners, in their 30s. They had asked the police officer how they could obtain insurance for medical treatment. The policeman became hostile after he heard one of them say they were partners. Both men were very frightened, humiliated and insulted by the assault.

This case was documented by Omid Parsa, who works with the LGBT Refugee Outreach Program of the Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO), based out of Toronto, Canada, a registered non-profit since 2008. The organization promotes and protects the rights of Iranian gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals in Iran and abroad.

IRQO also reported that on Feb. 4, an Iranian trans refugee, who had been pre-interviewed by Turkish police, but not yet pre-interviewed by UNHCR (the United Nations High Commission for Refugees), was informed that his application for refugee status had been denied. He was told to sign forms to confirm his rejection and informed of his right to appeal within 30 days.

This is the first known case of a trans refugee from Iran rejected by Turkey. IRQO is attempting to decipher the new Turkish immigration law and how it might apply to Iranian LGBT refugee applicants. Parsa says that decisions about claims are supposed to be officially made in Ankara, and not by the teams in satellite cities.

IRQO has documented complaints from gay, lesbian and trans refugees in satellite cities outside Ankara on the increasingly homophobic behavior of police.

The group believes that the many LGBT from Iran experience violence, blackmail and humiliation and that many may also suffer from depression and anxiety as a result. They have difficulty coping with incidents such as these.

The increasing hostility that Iranian LGBT refugees are experiencing in Turkey has come at a time of increased difficulties for LGBT people in Iran. IRQO’s Omid Parsa stated:

“The past couple of years have been even more difficult than before for the LGBT community and individuals inside Iran. We’ve been dealing with an increasing number of arrests and detentions that would end with release on bail, but exposed their (sexual) identity” to families and other detainees, resulting in torture while in detention and blackmail afterwards.

Parsa added that: “The number of teenagers and adult individuals who were handed to mental health professionals by parents in order to have them “cured” of their sexual orientation and gender identity, also increased. Forced marriages for the lesbian and gays happened more during this time in hope that the homosexual individual would be cured after the marriage. Naturally the number of refugees increased, most of them choosing Turkey for escape.”

“The conditions of Iranian gay, lesbian, and transsexual refugees in Turkey is getting more and more confusing since the new law on Foreigners and International Protection came to effect in 2013. No one knows with certainty what the actual extent of power, responsibilities and areas of authority of police is with regards to refugees,” Parsa said. “There are issues of black-market jobs, health insurance, length of wait-time for interviews with police and with the UNHCR  and, now, reported police violence against the LGBT refugees.”

“The IRQO team works on refugees’ case-files, and our clients are getting more and more worried,” said Parsa. “The extended length of time it takes to determine a refugee’s resettlement, since Canada and USA have much harder security checks in place now, makes the situation much harder, and brings into the life of the LGBT in Turkey more disasters.”

According to IRQO, some 200 Iranian LGBT individuals residing in Turkey are waiting for refugee determination by the UNHCR and for the resettlement process elsewhere to be completed.

IRQO is reaching out to Turkish LGBT organizations for advice as to how best to influence and initiate communications with Turkish officials.  The group is looking for ways to encourage Turkey to train its officials and police outside the capital city of Ankara about sexual orientation and gender identity, refugee protection laws, homophobia and tolerance. Homophobia is most frequently experienced in smaller cities where many Iranian LGBT refugees are assigned to live while they await resettlement in a third country.

Parsa stated that “as IRQO, we’re expressing concern about the new (Turkish) law and the police’s treatment of LGBT.”

IRQO has strongly recommended that Canada and the United States provide a faster process for resolving the cases of Iranian LGBT refugees who live temporarily in Turkey while seeking resettlement.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]


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