Iranian activist facing deportation from Turkey fears torture and death penalty

Maryam Shariatmadari

Iranian citizen Maryam Shariatmadari, who went to Turkey on a tourist visa after receiving a prison sentence in Iran for protesting, was detained by Turkish authorities on September 7 because her visa expired and now faces deportation, according to Turkish and international media.

Shariatmadari was released from detention the next morning and was told she had 30 days to leave the country. She said on her social media account that she was afraid of being deported and called on Turkish authorities to allow her to remain in Turkey. The National Union for Democracy in Iran (NUFDI), an activist group based in the US state of Maryland, said in a tweet that if deported, Shariatmadari could face torture and execution in Iran.

Shariatmadari was arrested by Iranian authorities in 2018 for removing her hijab in public places and has been described as one of the leading anti-hijab activists Iran, where women are required to cover their hair with a scarf by law.

Last year Iranian nationals Saeed Tamjidi (27) and Mohammad Rajabi (25), who sought asylum in Turkey, were extradited to Iran by the Turkish government despite the knowledge that they could face the death penalty. Their death sentence was upheld by an Iranian court in June.

The extradition of asylum seekers in Turkey has caused an outcry from human rights activists and other asylum seekers. “Is it this easy to send someone to their death?” said Iranian asylum seeker A.N. “What about human rights? This is not the first time and we are all afraid of extradition. If Maryam Shariatmadari is sent back to Iran, she will not only be imprisoned. There is torture and the death penalty in Iran.”

Ozan Orpak, a lawyer on the migration and asylum committee at the Denizli Bar Association, said they had applied for Shariatmadari’s visa to be extended and would give her legal assistance.

According to Turkish law professor İbrahim Kaboğlu, Turkey has an international obligation of non-refoulement to a country where a person faces the death penalty and/or torture.

Under international human rights law the principle of non-refoulement prohibits states from transferring or removing individuals from their jurisdiction or effective control when there are substantial grounds for believing that the person would be at risk of irreparable harm upon return, including persecution, torture, ill-treatment or other serious human rights violations. Under international human rights law, the prohibition of refoulement is explicitly included in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED).

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