On October 31st, Mission Free Iran organized protests in front of the Greek and Turkish Embassies to draw attention to the ongoing crisis facing Iranian refugees in Greece and Turkey – a crisis that governments and the UN have refused to respond to effectively. Iranian asylum seekers in these countries are faced with imprisonment, harassment from national authorities, threats from the Islamic Republic’s agents, and an utter lack of protection or effective advocacy from the United Nation’s Refugee Agency.
We demanded of the Greek and Turkish governments that the rights of Iranian asylum-seekers – and all those seeking refuge worldwide – be upheld immediately: ASYLUM, PROTECTION, and NO FORCED RETURN. We read our statement loudly through the megaphone at the Embassies of both Greece and Turkey.
Our first site for protest was at the Embassy of Greece. Our chants and signs demanded the recognition of the human rights of asylum seekers, Iranian and non-Iranian. We criticized the Greek government’s broken immigration system, which it attempts to administer through the use of “red cards” that give asylum seekers legal status for a period of 6 months at a time. We think it is more appropriate to give the Greek government a “red card” – the most severe penalty that can be applied in the game of football/soccer for abusive and violent behavior on the field – and we demanded rights for refugees, instead of red cards. We shouted “Red card for the Greek government! Asylum for refugees!” We also reminded the Greek government in our chants of the rights of refugees: “Asylum! Protection! No Forced Return! These are the rights of a refugee, in Greece and in Turkey!”
It was fairly quiet on the staff side at the Greek Embassy, though there were a lot of curious onlookers. One guy came out apparently for the express purpose of listening to us protesting in front of the Greek Embassy He relaxed in the grass and enjoyed the beautiful day while we shouted, and then left. I think I saw him smiling. : )
We had a nice group assembled, and so when it was time to walk to the Embassy of Turkey, two people stayed at the Greek Embassy to maintain the protest there.
Almost as soon as we got to the Embassy of Turkey, we were confronted by Embassy staff who wanted to know why we were there. The staff person immediately summoned the on-site security (despite the fact that he and the entire embassy were behind heavy gates, unlike most other embassies in Washington DC), and also called the US Secret Service police to intervene. In the interim, the Embassy of Turkey staffperson stood there and wrote down our chants, the main points of our statement and the slogans on our signs. Since we had staff attention, we also took the opportunity to vociferously condemn the collaboration of the Turkish regime with the Islamic Republic. We read aloud the catalog of Islamic Republic crimes and made it clear that Turkey was equally culpable of those crimes because of its refusal to ensure Iranian asylum-seekers’ rights, and because of its collaboration with the criminal Islamic regime in Iran.
After we finished reading our statement at the Embassy of Turkey and shouting chants in support of Iranian asylum-seekers and against the Islamic Republic and Turkey’s collaboration with the regime in Iran, we headed back to the Greek Embassy. We left a signed copy of our statement on the Embassy doorstep, along with a red card that said “Red card for the Greek government, Asylum for Iranian refugees!”
All photos courtesy of PR for Personal Rights.