Bahai News - Flood of Iranian refugees passes through Turkey
Thursday, June 15 12:48 PM SGT
Flood of Iranian refugees passes through Turkey
ANKARA, June 15 (AFP) -
Thousands of Iranians are fleeing their
country for political or religious reasons, passing through Turkey in
the search for refuge in the West.
Ahmad Behbahani, who said he is
a former Iranian secret service agent, won instant international fame
when he said in Turkey that Iran was to blame for the Pan-Am airliner
bombing over Lockerbie, in Scotland, in 1988.
That claim was
rejected by Iran and questioned by the CIA.
spokesman of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
in Turkey, said that Iranians constituted a high proportion of asylum
seekers arriving in the country.
Of the nearly 7,000 people who
registered with the UNHCR in Turkey in 1999, 96 percent were from Iran
or Iraq, most of them Iranians, said Corabatir, adding that 1,800 cases
Among them, a considerable number were members of
the Bahai faith, persecuted in Iran but who have established strong
communities in the United States and in Canada.
An estimated 1.5
million Iranians have arrived in Turkey since the Islamic revolution of
1979, but Ankara does not provide asylum for the nationals of its
neighbours, fearing a greater influx of refugees, and Turkey remains
only a transit stop.
Those who illegally cross the mountains on
the border between Iraq and Turkey apply for a temporary residence
permit from Turkish authorities, allowing them time to register with the
UNHCR for permanent refuge in a third country.
This is the
procedure reportedly followed by Behbahani, but the UNHCR has refused to
According to Turkish authorities, the Iranian stayed
for several days at Yozgat, 150 kilometres (90 miles) east of Ankara,
one of 20 Turkish towns boasting a refugee centre. But hundreds of
others stay underground. Sometimes they are arrested by the Turkish
police and sent back to Iran.
Tehran, whose relations with Ankara
are often strained, protested officially last month against "massive"
arrests of Iranians in Istanbul, but Turkey said those involved were
Ankara has accused Tehran of supporting
Islamist groups in Turkey and sheltering militants of the Kurdish PKK
The UNHCR pays around 60 million Turkish lira
(about 100 dollars) monthly to asylum seekers, while awaiting the
response of possible haven countries - particularly the United States,
Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Scandinavian countries and
The usual waiting time is a year to 18 months.
"People ofen flee their country after having been persecuted and have
undergone trauma which we try to alleviate by psychotherapy," Corabatir
One Iranian asylum seeker who asked not to be named said he
had been waiting for nine months in Turkey. "I would go to any Western
country. It would be better than Iran," he said.
©Copyright 2000, AFP
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