I want to bring you some important news about our ongoing fight to protect the religious rights of converts to Christianity. Our international affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) has just filed a critical amicus brief before the European Court of Human Rights in support of two applications concerning Iranian converts to Christianity who have been denied asylum by the Turkish government.
Here are the facts about the cases from our ECLJ representative, Gregor Puppinck:
The first application concerns an Iranian converted couple, with their two children. They arrived in Turkey in 1999, as the father was a police officer, who had aided political dissidents in Iran. In 2002, the family converted to Christianity and began working in the Gedik Pasa Church and in the International Protestant Church in Istanbul. Also in 2002, their request for a temporary residence permit was dismissed by Turkey; but in April 2008, they finally obtained a refugee status under the mandate of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Ankara. On July 30, 2008, the family lodged an application before the ECHR while they were in the process of being deported to Iran by the Turkish government. On August 1st, the Turkish government proceeded with the deportation, overstepping the ECHR instruction to suspend the deportation. In late August 2008, after being detained and interrogated by the Iranian police, the family succeeded, on their way to court, to escape and re-enter the Turkish territory.
The second case concerns three Iranian nationals, born in 1985, 1987 and 1986. Two of them, who are siblings, converted to Christianity in 2004. They became leaders of a house church and of a church youth group related to 222 Ministries. Because they were under the constant surveillance of the Iranian authorities and feared arrest on account of their evangelizing activities, they fled from Iran to Dubai in July 2008. The third applicant converted to Christianity in 2007 and became consequently subjected to violence by her family and threatened with being reported to the Iranian authorities. In June 2008, she also left Iran and went to Dubai. All applicants met in Dubai and on July 17, 2008, they arrived in Turkey. In August 2008, they were arrested by Turkish authorities while trying to leave Turkey illegally to seek asylum in Europe. They were then placed in a Police Station awaiting their deportation. In September 2008, the applicants were transferred to a Foreigners Guesthouse, while their repeated requests for asylum were refused.
On August 22, 2008, the applicants lodged an application with the ECHR requesting the court to stop their deportation to Iran.
In both of these cases, the applicants complain under Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention that their deportation to Iran would subject them to ill-treatment and torture, and even pose a real risk to their lives.
In its amicus brief, the ECLJ submits a presentation of the plight of Muslims who have converted to Christianity in Iran, termed apostasy. The ECLJ presents Irans current constitutional and statutory provisions for religious freedom, and these observations detail the provisions and ramifications of Irans new Penal Code Article 225, regulating apostasy. The ECLJ brief also discusses a number of recent cases involving Iranian apostates decided by national jurisdictions. Finally, the ECLJ presents recent reports of persecution against apostates in Iran.
The ECLJ amicus brief was filed with the ECHR on April 13th.
As you can see, these are critical cases with serious implications for those who convert to Christianity. We will keep you posted on developments as they unfold in these and other international cases.