Major Report on Plight of Iranian LGBT Asylum Seekers in Turkey Published Today

Published: August 10, 2010

For Immediate Release
Contact: Hannah Ward (
ORAM, +1 415 399 1701

Based on In-Depth Interviews with Iranian LGBTs,
Report Focuses on Violence & Protection Gaps

San Francisco, CA (August 10, 2010) – ORAM – Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration publishes its groundbreaking research report in Farsi today on perils facing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) asylum seekers and refugees in Turkey.  Most of these are Iranians.

“Unsafe Haven: The Security Challenges Facing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Turkey” is a comprehensive account of the crushing burdens LGBT refugees face in the country that is the primary land bridge for departing Iranians..  Forced to endure intimidation and regular acts of violence, and lacking sufficient police protection in Turkey, refugees are also deprived of basic services, including medical care.   The experiences of LGBT refugees means they often have no-one to turn to, even family and friends back in Iran, who may not be aware of their plight or have distanced themselves as a result.  Consequently they are even more isolated and marginalized.

The report is based on in-depth interviews with forty-six mostly Iranian LGBT asylum seekers and refugees in Turkey.  Co-published with the Istanbul-based NGO, Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Turkey, the research sheds light on the violence and protection gaps threatening these refugees, and on the failure of local police, government agencies, NGOs and the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR), to provide them sufficient protection.
ORAM executive director Neil Grungras said:

“This watershed report should be seen in the context of abuses against people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity worldwide.  Over eighty countries worldwide criminalize homosexual conduct.  Persecution of LGBTs in Iran is well-documented, not least the fact that homosexual acts are punishable by death.  What is less well known are the conditions faced by those who are forced to flee their homes and leave their families as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Many Iranians in this situation end up looking for safety in Turkey, and instead find themselves facing violence, intimidation, and harassment from officials, the local population and other refugees.”

Many of those interviewed described a lack of sufficient police protection in response to their complaints of violence, including admonitions that they stay at home or dress differently to avoid being targeted.  Others reported being evicted from their homes on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  The few able to work described being violently forced off the job when their LGBT status became known.  Many were not able to find support from within the Iranian  community, sometimes suffering violence and intimidation from other Iranian refugees.  

Mr. Grungras added:

“Significant steps must be taken to make LGBT refugees and asylum seekers safer in Turkey and in many other places throughout the world.  The violence and abuses will diminish only when all responsible parties begin giving the problem the intensive and serious attention it deserves.

“Iranian communities both within Turkey and across the globe can play a significant part in this, and indeed many already do.  We hope to work ever more closely with these communities to foster understanding and respect, to address the often horrific circumstances LGBT refugees find themselves in once in exile.”

ORAM has responded to this urgent situation by recently initiating and the first ever resettlement project in the Bay Area set to launch in the Winter of 2010.

The plight of Iranian LGBTs in Turkey was among the issues discussed at the UNHCR Annual Consultations with NGOs in Geneva, Switzerland in 2009.  A panel discussion moderated by Mr. Grungras titled “Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Refugee Rights: A Protection Gap?” was the first-ever official forum dedicated to LGBT refugees at the UNHCR convocation.  The workshop explored a variety of LGBT refugee issues including refugee status determination, protection of social/economic rights and physical security in countries of first asylum, detention, and resettlement. ORAM currently serves nearly 50 clients, many of them originating in Iran.

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About ORAM

Founded in 2009, ORAM – Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration is the first international NGO focusing on refugees fleeing sexual and gender based violence.  A new kind of network spanning national, ethnic, religious, racial and gender lines, ORAM provides clients with free legal representation and conducts advocacy and education on their behalf.  The organization’s Executive Director, Neil Grungras, is among the leading US experts on Iranian refugee issues.  Among other endeavors, he directed the US government’s processing center for Iranian refugees in Vienna, Austria.  A majority of ORAM’s clients today are from Iran.  For more information go to

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