Helsinki Administrative Court Decision of 20 December 2002
|Publisher||Finland: Helsinki Administrative Court|
|Author||Helsinki Administrative Court|
|Publication Date||20 December 2002|
|Citation / Document Symbol||02/1741/7|
|Cite as||Helsinki Administrative Court Decision of 20 December 2002, 02/1741/7, Finland: Helsinki Administrative Court, 20 December 2002, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/421f08074.html [accessed 30 January 2015]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
1. Demands in the Administrative Court
The decision of the Directorate of Immigration must be revoked and the appellants be granted asylum or a residence permit. There must be on oral hearing in order to examine the grounds of granting asylum.
The land property of X's parents was confiscated after the revolution in Iran. The family did not accept the Islamic rules and did not support the Islamic revolution. X's sister Y for this reason spent two years in a prison after the revolution. Y was also persecuted because of her husband's political activities. X's two sisters and one brother have been granted asylum in the United States and her cousin granted asylum in Germany. X's husband Z has been dismissed from his work in an international research centre in Iran in 1991 because his opinions were incompatible with Islam. Due to his opinions, newspapers had written that he was a CIA agent. Z has been forced to sign a promise that he will not express his opinions to foreign media or speak in foreign conferences. He has possibly been forbidden to leave the country.
X's old family friend, a writer-lawyer Mehrangis Kar was imprisoned in Iran a few months after X had fled Iran because Kar had not defended Islamic order in a conference in Berlin. X had been Kar's assistant as a volunteer in lawsuits concerning women.
Had X stayed in the country she, too, would have been in danger of being arrested and interrogated because she was active in issues concerning women and because her connection with Kar was a known fact.
Religious police harassed X on a regular basis in her work place. The reason for the harassment was the fact that X and her husband had resided abroad, their opinions and also X's dress.
X's elder daughter, A, who was born in 1984 had problems in Iran because she was unable to adapt to Iranian system. She was arrested twice. The reason for the first arrest was the forbidden association between boys and girls. She was arrested for ten days during which time she was interrogated on the antigovernment activities of her parents. During the arrest she was also maltreated. The other persons arrested at the same time were released after a few days. The headmaster of the school was sent information on the arrest, and the headmaster told the parents to take their child to another school, which was not possible. A was convicted to receive 30 lashes and her parents had to pay 300.000 toumans in order to prohibit the execution of the lashing. A was arrested for the second time during an antigovernment demonstration together with 200 other students.
X and her spouse have also been discriminated when they tried to find employment within the public administration and universities. Their elder daughter lost her opportunity to study in Iran because she does not have a religious reference.
According to a medical certificate A suffers from serious depression and posttraumatic stress reaction. She has not been able to talk about her arrest experiences and has stopped her therapy. She is studying in high school for a third year and has managed well. X's other daughter B studies in an international school and also manages well. X studies in the Faculty of Economics in the Oulu University in a PhD programme. The family ties of the appellants are in Finland as the majority of the family resides in the country.
On grounds of the long duration of the asylum procedure, A's serious illness, the successful integration of the appellants in Finland and, especially, the extremely poor human rights situation in Iran the removal from the country decision must be revoked.
The appeal includes a copy of an article in the Newsweek magazine on 25 March 1991, in which a statement of Z is shortly quoted.
2. Procedure in the Administrative Court
The appellants have amended their appeal on 7 and 22 January 2002 with newspaper articles and their translations on the activities of Z.
The Directorate of Immigration has given two statements. They state that the publication of the newspaper articles do not have an immediate effect on the appellants' flight from Iran. X's spouse, who has been interviewed in the articles, still resides in Iran and has not claimed asylum in another country.
The appellants have given their rejoinder on the statements, according to which their entire family have been labelled as opponents of Iran's Islamic society. Z has stayed in Iran because it was probable that the whole family would not have been able to leave Iran. He is forced to live in Iran without basic rights in order to avoid more serious persecution, in a situation similar to a house arrest. The family tried as early as 1989 to leave Iran for the United States through the family reunification procedure.
The rejoinder is amended with a letter by the Iranian National Front on X's activities for women's rights and with a medical certificate on X.
The appellants have, furthermore, presented new evidence to the Administrative Court on 11 and 26 September 2002. According to the documents presented A has been accepted to study in the Faculty of Pedagogics in Oulu University in the teacher's programme. B studies during the academic year of 2002 – 2003 in the International School of Oulu and X continues her studies in the Oulu University. The appellants while in Finland converted to Christianity and are active in the church. A will be arranged therapy treatment for her depression and posttraumatic stress reaction.
3. Oral hearing
The Administrative Court has organised an oral hearing on 21 November 2001 (the minutes 02/S71/7), in which the appellants have been heard on their asylum grounds and circumstances in Finland.
The appellants have, in the oral hearing, given clarification to the Administrative Court on the articles written by the appellant's spouse, on A's intentions to move from Iran to the United States in 1989 and the human rights situation in Iran.
The appellants must be recognised as refugees pursuant to Article 1 A (2) of the 1951 Geneva Convention. The Administrative Court revokes the decision of the Directorate of Immigration and returns the case to the Directorate for a new procedure.
5. Statement of the reasons by the Court
Pursuant to Section 30 Subsection 1 of the Aliens' Act, an alien shall be granted asylum and issued a residence permit, if he resides outside his country or country of habitual residence owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.
X has given, during the different stages of the asylum procedure, a coherent account of her situation in Iran and of the reasons for her flight from the country. The account is detailed and logical and includes no unfounded facts or facts, the accuracy of which could be reasonably doubted. X's account is credible and, thus, can be the basis of the evaluation of the need of international protection of X and her daughters.
The Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status, published by the UNHCR, states (paragraphs 51 – 53) that there is no universally accepted definition of "persecution". A threat to life or freedom on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group is always persecution. The subjective character of fear of persecution requires an evaluation of the opinions and feelings of the person concerned. It is also in the light of such opinions and feelings that any actual or anticipated measures against him must necessarily be viewed. Due to variations in the psychological make-up of individuals and in the circumstances of each case, interpretations of what amounts to persecution are bound to vary. In addition, an applicant may have been subjected to various measures not in themselves amounting to persecution (e.g. discrimination in different forms), in some cases combined with other adverse factors (e.g. general atmosphere of insecurity in the country of origin). In such situations, the various elements involved may, if taken together, produce an effect on the mind of the applicant that can reasonably justify a claim to well-founded fear of persecution on "cumulative grounds".
X stated in the oral hearing that her family had been landowners prior to the revolution and were against the revolution. After the revolution the land property of X's parents was confiscated because the family did not accept Islamic rules and did not support the Islamic revolution. X's sister Y had spent two years in the Evin prison after the revolution. Y was also persecuted for her husband's political activities. Prior to the revolution he had been the editor-in-chief of the magazines Rastakhiz and Javan and also belonged to the Rastakhtz party which opposed the Islamic revolution. An American reporter Sintia Dowaieh had been imprisoned in the same prison with Y for some time and she helped Y to get asylum in the United States. X's brother K and sister I were also granted asylum in the United States and X's cousin was granted asylum in Germany.
X studied in the United States since 1975 and was, thus, not in Iran during the revolution. X said she met her husband Z in the United States where he was also studying. They never returned to Iran from the United States until 1984. In spite of the difficulties of their relatives in Iran, X and Z believed that the conditions in their home country were at that time free enough for them to work and pursue their scientific research. X and Z were, however, considered unreliable in the beginning and they could not, is spite of their qualifications, get work at universities. Z is an expert on military political issues of the Persian Gulf. His doctoral dissertation "Army and Revolution in Iran" written in the United States was not allowed to be published in Iran.
X says that, in spite of his problems, Z managed to find work in Iran. Z worked until 1991 in the research centre Institute for Political and International Studies near the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He worked as a senior analyst. He was fired from this work in 1991. The Administrative Court has been presented a copy of an article of Z entitled "Miscalculation and Strategic Naivety in the Iraq-Kuwait crisis" published in 1990 in the Institute's publication the Iranian Journal of International Affairs. The Administrative Court has also been presented copies of articles from May 1991, which where distributed by the Reuters News Service. Z was interviewed on the articles.
Z has, according to X, expressed opinions incompatible with Islam in his lectures in various conferences and in his writings. News had been published in Iran that Z was a CIA agent. After resigning from his post he was forced to sign a promise not to express his own opinions to foreign media, not to surrender any material on Iran abroad and not to claim asylum anywhere. Z was at the same time an assistant professor on international relations in the Imam Sadig University but was fired from this position after taking a stand on interest system in a manner incompatible with Islam. After being fired Z had no regular work and he earned his livelihood by buying and selling second hand goods.
X worked in private enterprises engaged in foreign trade in the beginning of the 1990's. She says, further, that she assisted an old family friend Mehrangis Kar, an author and lawyer, in voluntary work on lawsuits concerning women during four, five years in the 1990's. Kar was active in a group working for the improvement of women's position in Iran. X did work in the group publically but helped Kar unofficially.
According to X the religious police, Pasdaran, harassed her regularly at her work place. Pasdaran was particularly interested in her relations with foreigners and who she and her husband were in contact with. X was also arrested once together with her colleague in 1998 because they had conversed with a representative of a German company during an international fair. At the end of the five- hour interrogation X was forced to sign a document in which she promised not to talk to strange foreign men. X's colleague was also asked what kinds of relations X has and whether she had tried to establish an antigovernment group.
X and Z's elder daughter A was, according to her account, arrested between 26 April and 6 May 1999 after having had a trip to the mountains with six girls and four boys. During the interrogation A was asked about her parents and antigovernment activities. The others were released soon after the arrest. During the detention A was maltreated because she did not have the information the interrogators demanded. A was ordered a punishment of 30 lashes for breaking Islamic rules. The punishment was settled with money. A says that she was also arrested between 10 and 12 July in connection with a demonstration. She was expelled from school after the arrest. The Administrative Court has been presented a medical certificate on A, dated 28 November 2000, according to which she suffers from serious depression and posttraumatic stress reaction.
X stated in the oral hearing that they endured the problems in Iran until there daughter's problems with the Pasdaran started. Kar was also, according to X, been persecuted by fanatics and his activities had been disturbed. After his office was broken into, Kar urged X to leave the country. He was imprisoned a few months after X left the country.
On grounds of the facts presented in the case it is obvious that the appellants have been subjected to surveillance by the Iranian government, their lives have been disturbed and they have been suspected of anti-government activities. It is particularly serious that A has been detained for nearly two weeks when only 14 years of age and, during the detention, has been maltreated and interrogated on the suspected anti-government activities of her parents. The purpose of the detention was, under the circumstances, apparently to pressure the parents. It is not possible to clarify the motives of the authorities' actions but there are reasons to believe that they are connected with X and Z's partly expressed, partly suspected political opinions and activities, the family's background and the parents' long stay abroad. Z has been publically alleged to work for the CIA. It is probable that the reasons behind Z being fired from his posts relate to the political conflicts between the conservative Islamists and groups more favourable to Western countries.
The appellants have been subjected, as described above, to government's actions which cannot, per se, be considered as persecution. The Administrative Court holds, that when considering their situation as a whole, X and her daughters have, due to the cumulative effect of the actions of Iranian authorities and other relevant matters a well-founded fear of persecution for reason of X and Z's membership of a particular social group and political opinion. X and her daughters cannot, on grounds of the nature of the matter, avail themselves of the protection of Iranian authorities. The appellants shall be recognised as refugees, pursuant to Article 1 A (2) of the 1951 Geneva Convention, and they shall be granted, pursuant to Section 30 Subsection 1 of the Aliens' Act, asylum.
1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Article 1 A (2)
Aliens' Act Section 30