The Turkish government uses refugees as a means and puts pressure on Europe through refugees. It does not give them a work permit for their livelihood and survival, nor does it provide any source for livelihood. At this point, especially political refugees are in a deep crisis. Human rights in Turkey is a beautiful slogan controlled only by lobbyists.

While racism is in full flow in Turkey, the current asylum system, combined with the rising voices of racism, continues to make the lives of refugee women difficult. Leili, who took refuge in Turkey from Iran three years ago, is one of tens of thousands of refugee women under international protection in Turkey. We listen from Leili about what she experienced in Iran and Turkey.

Parmis Vard, “Quiet Noise”

Three years and six months ago, I came to Turkey because of my political and human rights activities in Iran. My main activities were in the field of women and violations of rights they experience. I fight to eliminate the social and legal inequalities faced by women in patriarchal, Islamic and traditional societies such as Iran, Turkey etc. As part of a small community struggling in this field, I was striving for women in my country to achieve “human” status in society and at home. That’s why I was harassed, arrested, tortured and imprisoned in Iran by the government and intelligence. I lost my young and intellectual sister for this cause. She was one of the protesters opposing the oppression of the power in Iran. In January 2017, she was arrested on Enghelab Street in Tehran during nationwide protests in Iran and was tortured and sexually assaulted by an interrogator during his interrogation in prison. She was abducted by intelligence forces when she was released on bail shortly after getting a sentence of three years in prison and a two-year ban from leaving Iran, and her body was brought to us ten days later. There were signs of torture on her body, her face was burned with acid and completely devastated. We buried my sister in the place they said, under high security measures. They threatened us –her family– that we would be prosecuted if we leaked the incident to the press, but I could not remain silent. After then I was also tortured. I had to come to Turkey to save my life and soul.

I applied to the Immigration Police [1] for asylum in Turkey. The behavior of the immigration police towards the homeless refugees who have been forced to come here is humiliating and insulting, and in some cases, it even contains violence. They consider refugees as people occupying their country and regard them as the cause of social and economic crises, unemployment, inflation and poverty in Turkey. The government organizes a lot of propaganda against refugees to clean up the incompetence of its politicians and the mismanagement of the rulers. These, in turn, create anti-immigrant movements and racism. During my several years in Turkey, I was subjected to persecution by people affected by media and government propaganda, and to the violence, insults and humiliation of some fascists. In fact, one time, while talking to my friend on the phone in Persian on the street, a ten or twelve-year-old boy looked at me with anger and spat in my face, and he clearly showed his disgust at refugees by calling me a scumbag refugee. It was not that child to be blamed, but the system that started this propaganda consciously. But after that day, every time my phone rings in the street, I get nervous and never answer in order not to experience any more stress. I experienced the same in the office and hospital, and I am careful not to speak Persian there anymore. Of course, not everyone behaves badly, it would be unfair if I say that for everyone. I must say that I have seen honorable people here who support refugees under all circumstances.

Last year, on March 20, 2021, I participated in a protest against the Turkish government’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention with Erdogan’s signature. Later, a lawsuit was filed against me by the Turkish security forces, accusing me of disturbing the peace, and a deportation decision was issued against me. Then I was transferred to Aydın Hell Camp [2]. There I was subjected to psychological pressure for 33 days to sign the voluntary return forms to Iran. As a result of these pressures and persecutions, I had a panic attack and a severe paralysis affecting the right side of my face because the camp authorities prevented me from being sent to the hospital. Despite knowing that I would be arrested, tortured, and even executed if I returned to Iran, and that I had international protection, the Turkish government issued a final deportation order for me. This decision is illegal, contrary to international and even Turkish law. According to the Turkish constitution, people of all races and nationalities have the right to freely congregate and participate in demonstrations. In addition, the decision about me is a violation of the Geneva Convention, the provisions of which Turkey has accepted and committed to abide by. Now I live under stress and anxiety in the province where I was exiled so that I would experience more pressure [3]. This province is a conservative province governed by the ruling party. I have been persecuted by this province’s immigration police from the moment I came here, and even after a year they have not stopped torturing me and the restrictions they impose. Today, after one year since I was sent to Sivas, I am facing many problems in terms of work and livelihood in addition to the health problems, as well as the stress of being arrested and deported by the police at any moment. I am sick. I need care and treatment. Unemployment, lack of money and lack of a suitable living space put me in a very bad situation mentally and physically. I am a lonely woman and do not receive financial support from anywhere. I cannot work informally in the city I live in for fear of being arrested and faced with a deportation decision that casts a shadow on my life again. I’m asking you, is it possible to continue living with all these problems? Can a person survive without money and food? We do not receive support from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or the Turkish government. We don’t have a work permit either. Are we plants that survive by photosynthesis in the sun? The Turkish government uses refugees as a means to extort money from European governments and puts pressure on Europe through refugees. It does not give them a work permit for their livelihood and survival, nor does it provide any source for livelihood. At this point, especially political refugees are in a deep crisis. Human rights in Turkey is a beautiful slogan controlled only by lobbyists. So, as a refugee, as a woman, as someone who has fought for human rights, as someone who has been oppressed so much, where should I appeal?

Two weeks ago, I was sexually assaulted on the street. I went to the hospital because I had a panic attack. I had hours of treatment to get my breathing and pulse back to normal. The doctor there informed the hospital police. Instead of questioning the suspect, the police asked me questions that were irrelevant to the rape, even psychologically painful: did he offer money for the rape?

By rape, it is meant to be forced and nonconsensual. This question of the police shows that the police, whose task is to ensure the lives, psychology and safety of citizens, is often influenced by the patriarchal and traditional views supported by the government. These behaviors cause women to blame themselves and to be disgusted with themselves. And even often, it results in them having to continue to live with the endless torture of rape. Because the law has no ear to hear the injustice against women. Because politicians are men who are committed to the government and the system.

In Turkey, where there is an institutionalized patriarchy, most of the women asylum seekers are suffering because they do not have a work permit and they are deprived of legal protection to meet their basic life needs. They are brutally exploited, subjected to violence, harassment and even rape in the workplace, and if they take legal action to defend themselves, they are accused of being illegal workers and thus forced to remain silent.

[1] Even though the police withdrew from the asylum process with the establishment of the General Directorate of Migration Management in Turkey in 2014, it is still common to refer to the Immigration Authority as the Immigration Police among refugees.

[2] Aydın Removal Center. The poor conditions of the removal centers were repeatedly mentioned by refugees and those who were confined to these centers, and the depiction of hell was often used to describe the level of violence.

[3] Persons applying for international protection in Turkey live in cities determined by the state until they are resettled in a third country – this process can take years. While they must regularly sign at the General Directorates of Provincial Migration Management in these cities, leaving the city is possible only with the permission they receive from the General Directorates of Provincial Migration Management. Refugees have repeatedly stated that these permits are arbitrarily blocked. In addition, big cities such as Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, Antalya are not among the cities where refugees are settled, and refugees are generally forced to live in small cities.

For the original in Turkish / Yazının Türkçesi için

Translator: Gülcan Ergün

Proof-reader: Müge Karahan


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here