UPDATE: Iran: Mohammad Mostafaie, Lawyer of Sakineh Ashtiani, arrested in Turkey

Mohammad Mostafaie, a human rights defender and lawyer of Sakineh Ashtiani, the woman whose sentence to death by stoning in Iran in June received worldwide public attention, has been arrested and detained by Turkish authorities. On 24 July 2010, his wife, Fereshteh Halimi and brother in law, Farhad Halimi, were arrested and are now detained at the infamous Evin Prison in Tehran. Prior to their arrest, Mostafaie was invited for interrogation and subsequently released by the police but was immediately ordered to be arrested again. This had prompted him to go into hiding and he eventually sought refuge in Turkey.  There are strong indications that the arrest of his family were intended to pressure him to surrender to the authorities. 

The Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women (SKSW) and the Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) International Solidarity Network are gravely concerned over:

  1. The safety of Mr. Mostafaie given the poor and inadequate protective measures accorded by the Turkish authorities to political refugees like him.  
  2. The safety of his wife and brother in law who are still in detention in Iran.   


Turkey is an original signatory to the Refugee Convention.  It is also a member of the Executive Committee of the United High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).  According to a report issued  prepared by OMID Advocates for Human Rights recently(1), there are at least 2,000 unregistered Iranian refugees who fled to Turkey between June and December 2009 – the period marked by massive crackdown on the Iranian pro-democracy movement following their post-election protests. Iranian activists who fled to Turkey for political reasons are increasingly becoming more vulnerable due to the presence of Iranian security forces in Turkey who are pursuing and terrorizing asylum-seekers. Further, not only refugees in Turkey, but also their families left in Iran have been threatened or arrested by the Iranian security forces, according to the report. Many refugees reported that their parents and other family members had been contacted, threatened or arrested in Iran.

Threats of arbitrary expulsion and refoulement

Turkish law sets out a legal procedure to be followed before any foreign national can be deported, however, according to a recent report by Amnesty International(2), persons caught close to the Iranian border, persons who may be in need of international protection, were deported without any legal procedure or opportunity to apply for asylum and were subjected to beatings both after being apprehended by the gendarmerie in Turkey and after being forced to cross back over the border into Iran.  An informal agreement exists with the Iranian authorities to return any person thought to have entered Turkey irregularly from Iran and caught within 50km of the border.

Refoulement (returning anyone in any manner whatsoever to a country where they would be at risk of persecution or serious human rights abuses) of registered asylum-seekers and refugees is seen as commonly being practiced by Turkey, especially in cases of those coming from neighbouring countries with which Turkey shares a land border, such as Iran.

Your letter has to communicate the following points: 

That as a State Party to the UN Refugee Convention and other international human rights treaties all of which impose obligations on Turkey towards persons within its jurisdiction, irrespective of their country of origin, the Minister of Interior has to take the following measures that would guarantee the protection and safety of Mr. Mohammad Mostafaie.

  • He should not be deported without the opportunity to apply either for asylum based on a legal asylum procedure that is fair and satisfactory and in conformity with the standards defined by the UN Refugee Convention, or for third country resettlement.  If he is accepted for third country resettlement, he should be granted exit permission immediately.
  • The Iranian authorities in Turkey should not have any access to him.
  • He should have access to a lawyer. 
  • He should not be subjected to physical and mental harassment and torture by either the Turkish or Iranian authorities. 
  • He should be accorded his right, as any other individual, to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health as obliged by the UN Refugee Convention and other international human rights treaties.

[1] See Report on the Situation of Iranian Refugees in Turkey Post June 12th: One Year Later’, http://www.omidadvocates.org/

[2] See the full report at http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/EUR44/001/2009/en/0f217291-cae8-4093-bda9-485588e245d8/eur440012009en.pdf