A rapid increase of number of Iranian queer asylum-seekers and refugees continues as the political situation in Iran affects more people. The hope of hundreds of Iranian queers who leave their country is to live freely and not have any problems because of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. Instead, they have endless legal problems in Iran as well as being subject to discrimination, intolerance and hate crime and discomfort. They feel that they are like unwanted guests – and that feeling paves the way for a deeper humanitarian crisis.
Turkey continues to be a transit country for many refugee and asylum seekers, especially from Middle East, Asian and African countries. According to the 2011’s UNHCR country operations profile, Turkey maintains a geographic reservation to the 1951 Refugee Convention. That Convention provides that a refugee is someone who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”([i]) However, in accordance with Turkey’s status as a candidate for membership in the European Union (EU), the Government has committed itself to harmonizing its legislation with that of the EU on asylum and related areas, such as migration, border management and administrative and judicial reform. This commitment is the foundation for discussions concerning the potential lifting of the geographical reservation to the Convention.
Turkey receives the largest number of Iranian refugees of any other country, including members of Iranian queer community because it shares a border with Iran, does not require entry visas for Iranian passport holders, and is a transit route.
IRQR has been conducting research on the situation of Iranian queer refugees and asylum seekers in Turkey since 2005. IRQR pays a visit to Turkey every few months to meet Iranian queer refugees and asylum seekers and to document their situation and story.