Middle East

Turkey Becomes Refuge for Fleeing Iranians


Dorian Jones

29 January 2010


turkishflag90_150Iranians fleeing the Tehran government’s crackdown on its opponents are increasingly seeking refuge in Turkey.   Months of continuing political instability in Iran and the lack of visa requirements in Turkey are turning the country into a sanctuary for those trying to escape Iran’s political crisis.
The twice weekly train from Tehran draws into Istanbul’s Haydarpasha station.   Spilling from the passenger cars, a steady trickle of Iranians fleeing the sometimes violent crackdown by Iranian authorities.   Whether its by plane, train or coach, Iranians are fleeing their country in growing numbers.
One of the latest arrivals is 29-year-old photo journalist Nima Ezapou. He escaped Tehran using pedal power.
I fled Tehran on my bicycle he says, after hearing that his friend had been taken into custody by authorities.   He says he knew his friend would probably be tortured and given his name to authorities. So he fled, he says, and when he got close to the turkish frontier,  took a train across the border.
Ezapou’s story is increasingly common, observers say.

Turkey shares a long border with Iran and doesn’t require Iranians to have a visa, a fact that has made Turkey the first port of call for those seeking sanctuary from what they describe as fear of persecution by Iran’s government.
But only a few find permanent sanctuary.   Under Turkish law only Europeans can claim refugee status.   Most Iranian exiles are now looking to other countries for help.
One woman who worked as a journalist in Iran, but was afraid to allow her name to be used, says she was part of the underground Iranian opposition media. Despite having to flee her country with her husband, she says she has no regrets.
We weren’t political journalists, she says, but after the elections the situation changed a lot.  She says anyone with a conscience would have reflected on what’s happening. We saw this as our duty, she says. So the reports became political, and we started writing for web and blog sites, and that put us in great danger.
But for Iranians who support the opposition or oppose the Tehran government, being in Turkey who does not guarantee safety and some Turkish human right groups say Iranian agents are now intimidating the refugees. British journalist  Robert Tait  who covers Iran from Turkey for the British newspaper The Guardian, describes the allegations.
“There are numerous tales of Iranian refugees who’ve fled post election violence, having being harassed and assaulted here in Turkey,” said Robert Tait.
The Turkish government denies such accusations. But reports in the Turkish media, of Iranian refugees being attacked continue to grow, with no arrests so far.
But for photo journalist Ezapou such intimidation has done little to undermine his convictions. He says he is looking forward to going back to rejoin the struggle for democracy in Iran.
There is a continuity to this movement he says, whether fast or slow, it definitely will continue…I will go back to Iran, he says, I have a small role to play.  He says it is his duty to he country, where people want freedom and peace.
Analysts say the growing number of Iranians seeking refuge in Turkey is an embarrassment to Turkish leaders, who have been courting the Iranian leadership.  Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was among the first foreign leaders to congratulate President Ahmadinejad on his controversial election victory last year.   But, analysts point out there are other pressures, including the fact that Ankara wants closer ties and eventual membership in the European Union, which will be watching Turkey’s treatment of Iranians who flee repression at home.




About the author / 


Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

jga bookreview

jga bookreview


jga bookreview

jga bookreview

jga bookreview

jga bookreview

jga bookreview

jga bookreview

jga bookreview


  • New Issue is Out Now!

    Vol. IV | No. V – October-November-December 2018 To Download the Magazine Click Here… CONTENTS 04-06…..World News by Furkan Sahin  08-20…..Terrorism in Syria and Beyond: An Interview with Prof. Alain Gabon by Dr. Rahman Dag 22-24…..Erdogan’s Best Shot is Still in the West by Dr. Murat Ulgul 26-30…..Raqqa vs Kobani – Terrorism vs Revolution by Dr. Rahman Dag 32-34…..Future of…

  • Domestic Politics and the Design of International Institutions

    Abstract Scholars are increasing focused on how and why states design international institutions. International relations theories have historically guided research on these institutions, but have not provided adequate insights into the theoretical bases for their design. Rationalists’ theories of domestic politics offer an alternative approach to understanding institutional design. This study utilizes the positive theory…

  • Five generations after the Balfour Declaration: How do Palestinians Resist and Engender Significant Social Change?

    How to Cite: SELLICK, P. (2018), Five generations after the Balfour Declaration: How do Palestinians Resist and Engender Significant Social Change?. Journal of Conlicft Transformation and Security, 6(2): 139–142. The context of Israeli expansion and Palestinian dispossession Over the past year, a series of anniversaries has occurred which marks the progressive dispossession and displacement of the Palestinians….

  • CESRAN International named the World’s #83 “Best Independent Think Tank”

    CESRAN International is pleased to announce that it has been named the world’s number 83 “Best Independent Think Tank”. The ranking was announced in the 2017 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report compiled by the University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) at the Lauder Institute. CESRAN International was also ranked 77th among the “Top Environment…

  • The Current State of AI as We Begin 2018

    Artificial intelligence (AI) states one recent article is no smarter than a six-year-old. A study that appeared last summer compared the intelligence quotient (IQ) of Google, Apple, Baidu, and Bing AI to the average human 18, 12, and 6-year-olds. The 6-year-old’s IQ was rated at 55.5 while the 12 and 18-year-olds rated 84.5 and 97.0 respectively. The end result rated…