Human Rights Activist Kouhyar Goudarzi Writes Of His Asylum Status In Turkey And UNHCR Bureaucracy

Kouhyar Goudarzi

Prominent Iranian human rights activist and journalist, Kouhyar goudarzi, now living as a refugee in Turkey, facing a 5 year imprisonment sentence, fled Iran in March of 2013 after he was released on furlough from prison.

Kouhyar Goudarzi was first arrested in March of 2006 during a peaceful rally on International Women’s Day. He was arrested again in May 2006 on International Worker’s Day while attending a meeting at the Tehran Bus Company rally.

Subsequently Goudarzi was arrested twice in 2009 after the disputed presidential election and sentenced to one year imprisonment. He was kept in solitary confinement for 10 months and was later released on December 14, 2010 after completing his one year sentence.

Goudarzi was once again arrested in July 2011 in a raid of his home. For three months the authorities refused to acknowledge the arrest of Kouhyar, and his whereabouts remained unknown.

On April 12, 2012 after nine months imprisonment, 3 months of which his status and whereabouts were unknown, and 2 months of which were in solitary confinement under intense interrogations and torture, Goudarzi was released on bail pending his appeal.

In March of 2012, Kouhyar Goudarzi was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment to be served in the city of Zabol. He was convicted on charges of “Propaganda against the regime” and “Assembly and collusion with intent to act against the national security”.

In 2010, Kouhyar Goudarzi was the recipient of the John Aubuchon Freedom of the Press Award from the National Press Club.

Goudarzi’s arrest brought about an international outcry from various human rights organization demanding his immediate and unconditional release.

Following is translation of a post on Goudarzi’s Facebook written on January 3, 2014 speaking about his current situation as a refugee in Turkey:

It was last winter that I made my decision, and my reasons convinced me to leave Iran. Since then I have not written anything, nor have I complained about my situation. It’s been some years now that I have learned not to complain and to take the ups and downs of life with a sense of humor. This kind of attitude is what probably helped me the most during my incarceration years.

But sometimes one must speak out and speak of the pains. I made my decision and put my fate in the hands of the human smugglers, and the freezing cold weather and snow of Azarbaijan and crossing of the border.

After eight days of being a hostage in the hands of the human smugglers, in a sheep-pen in a village, walking through ice and snow, my personal effects stolen, and holding forged papers, I finally reached Ankara and the administration office that handles the refugee matters, where I registered and filled out an application. I did not have a passport nor any official identification papers, and this was my biggest problem.

Now almost one year has passed and I am still in Turkey, and not only have I not received acceptance from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and a third country, but I have not even been given an interview to start the process of my asylum request.

My current situation is: About 4 months ago I went for an already scheduled appointment to the office of UN High Commissioner in Turkey, an office that’s laden with a thousands bureaucracy & procedural problems.

It took me seven hours to travel to the High commissioner’s office in Ankara. When there, they did not allow me to enter. At the time I assumed that my lack of having legal documentation was the cause my losing my appointment.

However, the problem that caused my interview to be canceled, according to the UNHCR office, was the need to wait until a medical review was completed.

This was something that was recommended by a lawyer (Psychiatric counseling) after hearing a brief account of my arrests and tortures, prior to my registration request for asylum. Obviously at the time I had not expected this to become a problem so I agreed.

The use of psychiatric care once a month, with the cost of back and forth transportation out of pocket would have been very time consuming and could take some years to complete. . The UNHCR office canceled my asylum appointment 4 months ago, using as an excuse my termination of the psychiatric counseling.

This means that the doctor who was supposed to treat and deal with my emotional stress stemming from the events I suffered in prison, became himself the biggest source of stress and problems for me.

The UNHCR office’s bureaucratic management is not unique to my situation but also impacts the situation of thousands of other Iranian refugees in Turkey.

Another problem that exists is the fraudulent claims that are made. As an example, one person who in front of the UNHCR office was claiming to have been imprisoned in solitary confinement, when in fact, he had never even heard of the name Evin prison and had no valid reason for his claimed imprisonment other then being a political activist. With all this vagueness, his case was approved by the UN refugee office in about two months, just that easy, just that painful.

In 2010 and on the anniversary of the 2009 presidential election, the then U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, mentioned in a speech the names of seven human rights activists, including myself, and asked for their release from prison.

However, from these same American officials that even have my records of my high school for the gifted and talented students, no attempt has been made on my behalf in helping with my asylum case .

And my many influential friends who at the time of my imprisonments did not forget to use my pictures and my name, are now so preoccupied with their daily lives that they don’t even have time for a small conversation.

I could have left Iran many years ago. When you are a student at Sharif University, there are easier ways to leave Iran. I also could have left after my previous arrests. But when what happens to you is the result of choices you have made, it makes it easier to accept the situation.

On month six of my fifth arrest, to pass the time in my cell, I calculated that if I live to be 50, I will have spent one percent of my life in prison. This percentage ultimately became four percent with my last arrest.

The hardships during all those months, however difficult they may have been, I have accepted and endured as the results of and the price for the choices I have made. But it is hard, to have left my homeland for the right to continue my education that I was deprived of in my country, and now in a limbo situation, to hear sometimes that all of this was for me just to obtain asylum.

I didn’t write all of this to complain about my situation. Prison and solitary confinement’s biggest benefit is that you come to realize there is nothing more valuable than time, and that even in the worse of situations, one must not let their life become futile.

During my time here, I have completed an accredited online degree, and in a few months will be taking my TOEFL test.

My reason for writing this is because lately some friends in Iran asked me how is life the United States, and in which state do I live. Apparently most thought that I am in the U.S. Also I wanted to give an account of the procedural situation of the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees and it’s bureaucratic system.

Kouhyar Goudarzi
January 3, 2014

Source: Kouhyar Goudarzi Facebook

2 responses to “Human Rights Activist Kouhyar Goudarzi Writes Of His Asylum Status In Turkey And UNHCR Bureaucracy

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