Iranian Refugees Begin Hunger Strike

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AntiNote:  In keeping with our goal of amplifying the voices of those struggling against political repression and social domination, we have reprinted below an English translation of the manifesto issued today by 18 hungerstriking Iranian asylum-seekers in Bern,  reacting in part to Switzerland’s easing of sanctions against the country they fled.

The original German can be found here.

Their focus, understandably, is on human rights violations in Iran.  We wish to call attention, however, to the refugees’ plight here in Switzerland, which they humbly relegate to point 2 of their demands.

They mention having F or N permits; these are ‘temporary’ permits issued to an asylum-seeker upon initial registration, ostensibly to hold an applicant over until her status is decided.  It should be emphasized that these ‘permits’ do not, actually, permit much of anything: an F or N permit-holder cannot work legally, cannot register her children in schools, cannot arrange for her own housing, cannot even get a SIM card for a Swiss mobile network.

Furthermore, thanks to the Dublin II Agreement, to which Switzerland became a signatory in 2008, an asylum-seeker registered–and likely stymied–in Switzerland cannot move on to try her luck in another country. 

Finally, the application process for asylum-seekers in Switzerland has been known to take years.  This lengthy legal limbo leads to unspeakable–and largely unspoken–hardships, which led dozens of Syrian refugees to camp and hungerstrike in front of the Migration Office in Bern last September.

The Migration Office appears to be taking the same approach to the current, much smaller protest: according to the Bern newpaper Der Bund, migration officials  have met with representatives of the Iranian hungerstrikers but so far offered only excuses.  We will continue to follow this situation as it develops.

Manifesto of the 18 Iranian Hungerstrikers in Bern

The Islamic Republic of Iran is well-known among international organizations for its human rights violations.  The barbarous  actions of this regime have repeatedly drawn condemnation from humanitarian organizations and European governments.  Iran’s practices include scores of highly disturbing cases, such as numerous executions without due process, the execution of minors, torture, discrimination against women, stonings, amputations, restrictions on the work of journalists and students, and so on.  At the same time, the Islamic Republic of Iran ignores international resolutions and avoids every effort of society to improve prison conditions or observe human rights.  Thousands of political prisoners are held in prison cells simply because they express dissenting viewpoints or criticize the political system and its systematic violation of human rights.

This morning we—refugees from Iran—began a hunger strike in front of the Swiss Federal Migration Office (Bundesamt für Migration, or BfM) in Bern.

Over seven million people from Iran have had to leave their country and seek refuge in signatory countries to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Many of them are unknown activists whose names will only become known if they are killed or sentenced to long prison terms, as with activists and otherwise politically or socially engaged people still within Iran.

We Iranians taking part in this hunger strike call upon the Swiss government, parliament, and all other relevant official organs to satisfy the demands enumerated below.

We are conducting this hunger strike in a calm and peaceful manner.  We will end the strike only when the following demands are met:

  1.  That Switzerland examine its easing of sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran; that Switzerland officially recognize that the Islamic Republic of Iran systematically violates human rights; and that Switzerland begin work actively to impede these human rights violations.
  2. We have F or N permits, or are asylum-seekers whose appeals have thus far been refused.  Considering the prevailing political and social conditions in Iran, and the suffering that the Islamic Republic has caused and is causing us, we demand a prompt and positive decision regarding our status here.  We want to lead normal lives again, to function sensibly within society, and to live according to the human rights that were denied us in Iran.
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