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Iranian refugees facing deportation for protesting Turkey’s Istanbul Convention exit turn to UN

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A human rights lawyer has lodged a complaint with the UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of three Iranian refugees who face deportation for protesting Turkey’s withdrawal from an international treaty to combat violence against women, the Gazete Duvar news website reported on Thursday.

The Council of Europe (CoE) Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention, is an international accord designed to protect women’s rights and prevent domestic violence in societies.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sparked outrage in March 2021 by pulling out of the treaty, a decision that officially came into force on July 1 and has drawn condemnation from world leaders, including US President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and international and regional organizations and rights groups, in addition to prompting protests across the country.

Refugees Leili Faraji, Zeinab Sahafi and Esmaeil Fattahi were detained on April 5, 2021 for attending a March 20 protest in Denizli against Turkey’s withdrawal from the convention. The refugees were then sent to the Aydın provincial deportation center on April 6 and kept there for a month before they were sent to other deportation centers in different provinces.

According to Gazete Duvar, an administrative court in Denizli rejected the refugees’ objection to the Denizli Governor’s Office’s decision to deport them on Dec. 31, 2021, and a similar objection by the refugees was also rejected by the Constitutional Court.

Lawyer Kurtuluş Baştimar told Gazete Duvar that they argued in the complaint that Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government violated several of the refugees’ rights, including the right to freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly, which are guaranteed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

According to Baştimar, the complaint will be sent to the Turkish government in the next 10 to 15 days and then the government will have two months to prepare a defense statement.

“Then they [the working group] will have our defense statement against the government, after which the process for [the working group to issue] a decision will start,” the lawyer explained.

“I am a political refugee. I was detained and tortured many times because of my human rights activities in my own country. I applied for asylum when I came to Turkey due to my activities against … the regime in Iran. … I continued … [attending similar] activities in Turkey,” Fattahi, one of the refugees facing deportation, previously told Euronews.

He added that being sent back to Iran would amount to more pressure and torture since some Iranian political refugees who had earlier been deported had even been sentenced to death.

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