Iranian protesters claim intimidation in Turkey

Dec 3, 20090 comments

Iran-protests-001Political activists who escaped to Turkey after fleeing Iran’s post-election unrest claim they are being subjected to a campaign of threats and intimidation by agents of the Islamic regime. Several have told the Guardian that they fear for their lives after being tracked down by Iranian security personnel in a country they previously regarded as safe. Some say they are desperate to leave for a more secure country after being accosted in the streets of the Turkish capital, Ankara, and threatened on the internet. Those claiming harassment are seeking political asylum in the west after alleging they were raped and tortured in the aftermath of the protests that followed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election last June, which opponents say was achieved through mass fraud. They believe the Iranian authorities have put them under surveillance in an effort to intimidate them into silence about rape allegations which scandalised the country’s political system when they first surfaced in August. Some say their families in Iran have also been targeted. In the latest incident, a 24-year-old man who claims he was raped described how he woke up in the early hours of the morning this week to find three men looking through the windows of his ground floor flat. “I was woken by what sounded like someone trying to break in,” he told the Guardian. “When I went to the living room, there was a man staring through the window. “I went to the bedroom window so I could shout for help, but there I discovered two more men. I was terrified. I switched off the lights and piled the sofa behind the living room door. They left after a few minutes, but I couldn’t sleep for the rest of the night. The following day I was on the internet when a chat-room message appeared under the name of one of my friends, who has been arrested in Iran. It said, ‘you witnessed last night what we are capable of – keep your wits about you and don’t think you can do whatever you like’. It wasn’t the first such message I had received.” Another alleged rape victim said his hotel room was trashed after an Iranian embassy employee had asked the receptionist for a list of the guests. The 27-year-old man, a former activist for the defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, also said he was pursued on the streets. “On one occasion, a man grabbed me by the hand as I was walking and said, ‘let’s go and talk’, but I ran away,” he said. “Another time, as I was going into my flat, a man put his hand on my shoulder and, looking into my eyes, told me, ‘either you are going to shut up or we will shut you up’.” Mariam Sabri, 21, who claims she was raped by an interrogator after being arrested, said her father and her brother were arrested after she spoke out about her ordeal. “They arrested my brother for a second time just a few days ago and broke both his hands,” she said. “They told him, ‘either you go to Turkey and get her back so we can put her on television to make her confess that she has done this just to seek asylum, or we will take action ourselves’. They also told my father, ‘do you think it’s difficult for us to put her into a sack and bring her back’.” Some Iranians have expressed doubts about the protection given to them by police in Turkey. Two men in a small town in central Turkey said police threatened to hand them over to the Iranian authorities. Others say Turkish police have warned them to keep quiet about the threats they have received from Iranian agents. The intimidation campaign comes after a senior revolutionary guard commander, Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri, told the hardline Keyhan newspaper that foreign-based supporters of the opposition green movement would be targeted as “extensions of a soft coup”. “So far, a large number of the infantry of the enemy has been identified,” he said. “The Islamic Republic will not allow the extensions of a soft coup to act on further sedition and if necessary, the government will make them face serious challenges.” Iranians do not need visa requirement to enter Turkey, meaning it would be easy in theory for Iran’s state agents to operate clandestinely within Turkey’s borders. Western diplomats have privately voiced concerns about the security of Iranian refugees from the election upheaval. However, Metin Corabatir, external affairs officer with the UN’s high commission for refugees, insisted they were safe in Turkey. “The Iranians are under the protection of the Turkish state and Turkey is a secure country,” he said. “If there are some high profile people, extra measures are taken to ensure they are protected. But we know of no incident and there is no threat to these people.” Source: