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Why Turkey is not a safe destination for the Iranian opposition

Why Turkey is not a safe destination for the Iranian opposition

The daughter of Iranian Kurdish anti-mine activist EisaBazyar said on Wednesday that his family have not heard from him since he left his home in the Turkish city of İzmir on Monday.She later tweeted that Bazyar has been found somewhere two hours away from his place of residence, adding that police have said he is not in a good physical condition.

“Al-Arabiya English” published today a detailed report about Iranian dissidents have sought refuge in Turkey since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, butwith a long history of assassinations, abductions and extraditions, Turkey has been far from a safe haven for them. The report recalls several cases of assassinations and abductions of Iranian political activists in Turkey, from 1980s by today.

Since 1979, Turkey has become a destination of choice for Iranian dissidents as it is one of just 41 countries that Iranians can travel to without a visa.Prior to the 1979 revolution, the Iranian passport was one of the most powerful in Asia. For instance, Iranians were able to travel to all western and central European countries, bar Switzerland and Austria, without a visa.Today, the Iranian passport is among the weakest in the world.The Iranian passport ranks 101st in terms of travel freedom according to the Henley visa restrictions index as of April 2020.

This leaves Iranian dissidents looking to flee their home country out of concern for their safety little choice. Additionally, Turkey shares borders with Iran, giving those who cannot leave Iran to Turkey by air an option to do so by land.In November 1988, Iranian agents kidnapped Mojtahedzadeh in Istanbul and attempted to take him to Iran by land in a convoy of three vehicles with diplomatic licenses.

Mojtahedzadeh was rescued after Turkish police stopped and searched the vehicles. He was found tied up in the trunk of one of the vehicles.Mojtahedzadeh said that he was interrogated and tortured by members of the Iranian embassy in Turkey including then-ambassador Manouchehr Mottaki who later served as foreign minister from 2005 to 2010.In August 1992, another MEK member was kidnapped and gruesomely murdered in Istanbul.Turkish police arrested several people during the investigation.

If Tehran denied involvement, the arrested individuals, who were members of Islamic Action – an Iran-affiliated Turkish extremist group – confessed to receiving money from the Iranian embassy in Turkey to kidnap Ghorbani.The kidnappers said in their confessions that they handed Ghorbani over to Iranian agents in Istanbul after kidnapping him and that it was Iranian agents who tortured and eventually killed Ghorbani.

According to al-Arabiya, over the last few years, Iranians and Kurdish Iranians have gone missing, with some showing up dead; the fate of others still unknown as for the 33 Iranian Kurdish activists deported to Iran last December.

Iranian state-affiliated outlets accused the deported activists of collaborating with the opposition group Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, which Tehran considers a terrorist and separatist group.In November 2019, Iranian dissident Masoud Molavi was killed after being shot 11 times in Istanbul.Molavi was a critic of the Iranian regime and posted a message on social media criticizing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on social media three months before he was killed.Reuters reported late March citing two senior Turkish officials that the killing was instigated by two Iranian intelligence officers based at its consulate.

Earlier this month, the Turkish intelligence services in Ankara arrested Iranian Baloch activist AbdollahBozorgzadeh.Activists are fearful Turkey would extradite Bozorgzadeh to Iran where his life would be in danger.

There is a “high possibility” that Bozorgzadeh has been arrested at Tehran’s request, Bozorgzadeh’s brother HabibollahSarbazi told Al Arabiya English on June 13.Turkey and Iran have cooperated extensively in recent years on security matters.AbolhassanMojtahedzadeh, a member of the opposition group Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), is one of few Iranian dissidents to survive a regime kidnapping attempt in Turkey.

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