Ardeshir Gholipour: how we torture a distinguished Iranian
If anything is evidence that Australia's asylum assessment is a joke, stacked against those who have the temerity to seek asylum without being invited, arriving in boats and thereby "breaching Australia's asylum borders" as if that is an illegal activity, then it is Ardeshir's case. The Refugee Review Tribunal, the Howard government's one-man show (just one person constitutes such a Tribunal!) simply concluded they did not believe his story.
But - help is on the way. PEN International, the organisation publishing the cases of "writers in prison" has him on the list. And, who knows, we may even hear from some writers with worldwide acclaim. We may hear from some Nobel Prize winners. We may even have writers on the case who are known around the world, because they were also working for openness, democracy in the context of oppressive regimes in the same way as Ardeshir worked. One of the letters sent to the Minister for Immigration is printed below.
Personally, I will not take "no" for an answer in the case of Ardeshir, and I have told him so. So has Arnold Zable of PEN Melbourne. So has Justine, who's with us at Project SafeCom, and who has five paintings by Ardeshir in her house, also the one in the picture, "Freedom Song". Sing, Ardeshir, because we're all waiting for the day you get out. We will not allow the disgrace of the Howard government's asylum policies to live forever. And - you have our commitment for a grandiose party in celebration of you.
Working for the samizdat newspaper Khaber NemehFaraj Sarkoohi
D-60322 Frankfurt am Main
To: Senator Amanda Vanstone
Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs
Canberra ACT 2600
January 18th, 2005
Re: Asylum for Ardeshir Gholipour
Dear Senator Vanstone,
Allow me to first introduce myself. I am an Iranian writer and former editor of the literary journal Adineh. For many years in prison under the Shah, I was again imprisoned in 1996 and sentenced to death in 1997 in a secret trial, the sentence was later reduced to one year.
I was tortured and forced to make false public statements before television cameras at Tehran airport, while in fact I was still in detention. Due to worldwide pressure, including from governments and the European Union, I was finally released and allowed to travel to Germany, where I have been living in exile since May 1998. I was immediately accepted into the City of Refuge Program of the International Parliament of Writers, and since 2000 am a participant of German PEN's Writers Exile Program which is funded by the German government.
While I was in jail, letters of mine were smuggled out of prison, published by the samizdat newspaper Khaber Nemeh and circulated in over 10.000 copies throughout the country thanks to the initiative of Pirooz Davani and his colleagues at Khaber Nemeh, one of whom was Ardeshir Gholipour. While I knew Pirooz Davani personally through his association with Adineh and while, to my knowledge, I have never met Ardeshir Gholipour in person, I can confirm that he was an active and well-respected member of the Khaber Nemeh team. The publication of my letters in Khaber Nemeh was the direct cause for the abduction and murder of my friend Pirooz Davani in 1998 as well as for the hunt for his associates and retributions to many of them. Anyone connected with Khaber Nemeh is still in great danger in Iran, even now, as the Islamic authorities never forget.
Like every Iranian intellectual in exile, I would love to be able to return to my country, my friends, my culture, my language. But the situation in Iran is becoming ever more precarious. The regime is fully in the hands of the clerics; the reformers, including President Khatami, are powerless and even losing what little influence they had via clan and family ties.
Over 200 papers and journals have been closed, numerous writers and activists are held as political prisoners, including the eminent lawyer and writer Dr. Naser Zarafshan who defended the families of some of those who fell victim to the so-called serial murders of 1998 having demanded full investigation into the murders. Daily, news reaches me of further detentions, assaults and repressions in Iran. Dissident writers and intellectuals known for their democratic leanings are particularly targeted. Those who at any one time courageously defended the right to publish their views, and that includes Mr. Ardeshir Gholipour,
will have to fear the wrath of the mullahs as long as these remain in power.
Please grant Ardeshir Gholipour a safe refuge in Australia. If he were returned to Iran, his life would be at risk. Please spare him experiences like mine or, worse still, Pirooz Davani's fate.
Signed: (Faraj Sarkoohi)
Immigration Department plans sending UN refugee to his deathProject SafeCom Inc.
Wednesday January 19 2005 8:45am WST
For Immediate Release
"Iranian writer Ardeshir Gholipour, recognised by PEN International's Writers in Prison Committee, not only as a writer in prison, but as someone who needs Australia's protection from persecution, is scheduled to be deported by the Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone.
"Not only PEN International is convinced of Mr Gholipour's need to be protected, but he is also recognised by the United Nations as having been imprisoned in Iran's notorious "world's largest prison for journalists" - Evin Prison - as a prisoner 'for Convention reasons'.
"The highly acclaimed artist Ardeshir Gholipour should have been immediately gained asylum and protection when he arrived in Australia five years ago", Project SafeCom's spokesman Jack Smit argued today.
"Instead, and solely because he had "the audacity" to arrive on Australian shores, unannounced and uninvited, Australia detained him in the just as notorious Curtin detention centre."
"Now, through Departmental blindness and stupidity, the Minister for Immigration Amanda Vanstone has announced and informed him that he is to start packing his bags because she intends to deport him, either willingly or forcibly."
"In the planned deportation of Mr Gholipour, Australia's treatment of unannounced asylum claimants finds its culmination of ridiculousness and blind arrogance, where DIMIA seeks to make a point of sending people to their certain deaths while attempting to claim it is protecting its borders."
"Mr Gholipour, if deported, certainly awaits reprisals, if not immediate killing by the Mullahs for his eloquent work as a writer for the democracy movement in Iran, but this consideration has been "bureaucratically eliminated" in his assessment. Project SafeCom as well as hundreds of his friends and supporters fail to grasp the logic and reasoning for this astounding decision by the Immigration Minister."
"Mr Gholipour has established himself a highly respected status in Australia as an Award-winning visual artist, even while he was in detention centres, and he has been a guiding light for countless children in detention."
"In the Port Hedland detention centre, he was the driving force behind the painting of murals around the outside walls of the compounds, and he inspired and taught many children who he guided to take up painting and to start expressing himself."
"Australia's asylum policies are bankrupt and they have so far cost nine lives as a result of detention since Tampa. As the Edmund Rice Centre has reported, we have deported many people into danger zones and others have disappeared, but the case of Mr Gholipour certainly must be the most blatant example of how we trample on the UN Refugee Convention."
Iranian asylum seeker faces deportationABC South Australia
Wednesday, 19 January 2005
The Federal Government is being called on to intervene in the case of an Iranian journalist who has been trying to gain asylum in Australia for five years.
Refugee advocates say the man could die if he is sent back to Iran.
Iranian pro-democracy campaigner and writer Ardeshir Gholipour has spent the past five years in immigration detention in Australia.
Refugee advocate Jack Smit says the asylum seeker has previously been jailed for his activities in Iran and the consequences of deportation could be fatal.
"This man is being sent to his death, I have no doubt about it," Mr Smit said.
Human rights lawyer Natalie Bugalski says Mr Gholipour was hospitalised after trying to take his life on Friday when his requests for a humanitarian visa were rejected by the Government.
"He's scared that his life will be in danger or he'll be tortured and he can't bear the thought of going through any of that again and would rather take his own life rather than go through that," she said.
Ms Bugalski says Mr Gholipour's supporters are determined to keep up pressure on the Federal Government to grant him a protection visa.
"All we can do is keep submitting these letters and this evidence and these applications and hope that someone there will make the right decision," Ms Bugalski said.
The Minister for Immigration, Amanda Vanstone, last week refused to intervene in the case.
A spokesman for the Immigration Department confirms that deportation is an option.
Links to other internet sites
Asylum seeker in imminent dangerPRESS RELEASE
Australian Centres of International PEN
Arnold Zable, Melbourne
[phone no inserted]
Ardeshir Gholipour is an Iranian asylum seeker who has been in Australian immigration detention since March, 2000, having fled Iran earlier that year.
Between 1985 and 2000, Ardeshir exhibited great courage as an outspoken supporter of democratic reform in Iran. International PEN, an organization representing writers in 99 countries, has confirmed that Ardeshir was indeed an active member of the Iran freedom movement, and that "he has a real reason to fear persecution for his legitimate and peaceful activism should he be returned to Iran."
On Friday, January 14, 2005, Ardeshir Gholipour learnt that the Minister of Immigration, Senator Amanda Vanstone, had refused his request for a 417 humanitarian visa. In effect, this means that Gholipour is in danger of imminent deportation to Iran.
Gholipour's case is significant for a number of reasons. First, for his great courage in campaigning for democracy in Iran. In 1987 Gholipour was arrested and spent over 21 months in Iran's notorious Evin prison for distributing pamphlets on behalf of the Iran Freedom Movement. As a writer and designer for a number of provincial papers he produced articles on social reform matters.
Gholipour also wrote articles on behalf of the Left Union for Democracy in Iran, and participated in the student demonstrations of July 1999. He fled Iran in fear of his life.
Gholipour's case is also significant for the humanity and generosity of spirit he has displayed whilst in Australian immigration detention. He has gained many supporters in Australia because of his tireless work on behalf of other detainees, and also because as an artist, he painted numerous murals in the Port Hedland detention centre. These included uplifting scenes for children then held in detention. He was dubbed "The Michelangelo of Port Hedland."
He has since been shifted from Port Hedland to the maximum security Baxter detention centre and has continued to paint, and to donate his works for fund raising appeals, and to his friends and supporters. Ardeshir is an extraordinary person, a Sufi by religion, a universalist in spirit, a democrat by example, and a man of peace who has won many admirers and touched many people's lives.
International PEN and Australian PEN centres are extremely concerned about Gholipour's predicament. We fear for his safety, and for his fragile state of mind. After 5 years in detention, a resilient and courageous man has been finally driven to despair. On January 14, Ardeshir took an overdose of sleeping tablets. He was admitted to Port Augusta hospital and is now back in Baxter, but remains fearful and vulnerable. A man who has selflessly supported so many others, now deserves our support.
Arnold Zable [phone no inserted]
Natalie Bugalski [phone no inserted]
Melissa Miller [phone no inserted]
Rosie Scott [phone no inserted]
Writer may face forced deportation to IranDEMOCRATS MEDIA
19 January 2005
The Australian Democrats have supported the concerns of the Writers in Prison Committee of International (PEN), about the possible deportation from Australia of an Iranian writer, given the appalling lack of freedom of expression in Iran.
Democrat spokesperson for Immigration Senator Andrew Bartlett said, "There are grave concerns that Iranian writer Ardeshir Gholipour, who is detained at Baxter Detention Centre, could be forcibly deported.
"According to PEN's records, there are at least 13 writers currently detained in Iran, serving lengthy sentences for reasons which have been condemned internationally as clear breaches of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
"Mr Gholipour's case has been thoroughly investigated by PEN who believe that he has real reason to fear persecution should he be returned to Iran.
"It would be negligence on Australia's part to forcible repatriate Mr Gholipour.
"In Australia we value freedom of speech and if an Australian writer was jailed for their ideas we would be marching in the streets.
"I am alarmed by the prospect of Mr Gholipour's forced return and call on the Immigration Minister Senator Vanstone to exercise her discretion by not ordering his repatriation.
Vanstone negligent over farcical and dangerous deportationsThe Greens - Kerry Nettle
Senator Kerry Nettle today accused Minister Vanstone of dangerous incompetence over the handling of section 417 ministerial intervention process and recent deportations.
"The Greens are deeply concerned that the Minster has bungled the section 417 humanitarian application of an Iranian journalist and writer, Ardeshir Gholipour, who now faces deportation," said Senator Nettle.
"The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International has written a very strong letter expressing its concern for Mr Gholipour should he be deported to Iran. It seems the Minister has failed to take into account the PEN letter when making this decision.
Mr Gholipour spent 21 months in Iran's notorious Evin Political Prison for distributing pamphlets for the Iran Freedom Movement. His work as a dissident journalist and writer forced him to flee Iran for fear of his life.
"I understand that when Mr Gholipour heard about the rejection he took an overdose and was taken to hospital. Does the Minister really think this is how Australia should be treating the brave people who fight for democracy in Iran and seek our protection?
This latest failure to manage the humanitarian visa application process fairly comes hard on the heels of the Bakhtiari deportation fiasco.
"The Bakhtiari family which the Minister deported to Pakistan have now gone back to Afghanistan were they always claimed to be from.
"The government has effectively sent a family, including small children, back to a place where they face persecution," said Senator Nettle.
"The Minister should be held responsible for their safety and an inquiry should be held into why she has made such a grave error, particularly when there was so much evidence, and she was warned by so many Australians that the Bakhtiaris were indeed Afghani and in need of protection.
"I am also very concerned by reports that the Minister has handed the decision making process over section 417 applications to her junior Minister, who is apparently rejecting them at a rapid rate.
"People's lives hang in the balance with section 417 applications and the Minister should treat them with appropriate respect or she is not fit for the job. Whether she is making the decisions or not, she is ultimately responsible for the results."
Iranian author faces death when deported from Australia: advocateChannel News Asia
Posted: 19 January 2005 1635 hrs
SYDNEY: An Iranian artist and democracy campaigner facing deportation from Australia as an illegal immigrant is likely to be killed if he is returned to his native country, a refugee advocacy group said.
The group, Project SafeCom, said Ardeshir Gholipour, who has been in Australian detention centres for almost five years, attempted suicide after learning his bid for a humanitarian visa had been refused by Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone.
SafeCom spokesman Jack Smit said Gholipour was taken to hospital last Friday after overdosing on sleeping tablets at the Baxter detention centre in South Australia, but had since been returned to Baxter.
Gholipour, an author for democracy movements in Iran, arrived in Australia in March 2000 and was initially held at the Port Hedland detention centre in Western Australia.
Smit said Gholipour had been imprisoned for 21 months from 1987 at the notorious Evin Prison in northern Tehran for distributing pamphlets on behalf of the Iran Freedom Movement, and also wrote articles for the Left Union for Democracy in Iran.
He had participated in student demonstrations in Iran in July 1999 and subsequently fled the country in fear of his life.
"Mr Gholipour should have immediately gained asylum and protection when he arrived in Australia five years ago," Smit said.
"Instead, and solely because he had the audacity to arrive on Australian shores unannounced and uninvited, Australia detained him.
"Now, through departmental blindness and stupidity, Amanda Vanstone has announced and informed him that he is to start packing his bags because she intends to deport him -- either willingly or forcibly.
"Mr Gholipour, if deported, certainly awaits reprisals, if not immediate killing, by the Mullahs for his eloquent work as a writer for the democracy movement in Iran."
The minor Australian Democrats party also appealed to Vanstone to exercise her discretion by not ordering the deportation of Gholipour who, it said, was recognised by the PEN International Writers in Prison Committee as being at risk if deported to Iran.
Democrats immigration spokesman Senator Andrew Bartlett said Gholipour's case has been investigated by PEN, which believed he had a real reason to fear persecution should he be repatriated.
"It would be negligence on Australia's part to forcibly repatriate Mr Gholipour," Bartlett said.
A spokesman for Vanstone refused to discuss the Gholipour case, saying: "We don't comment on individual cases."
Link to Channel News Asia
Iranian asylum seeker faces deportationABC ONLINE NEWS
Wednesday, January 19, 2005. 7:00pm (AEDT)
Refugee advocates say the Federal Government will put an Iranian man's life in danger if it follows through with plans to deport him.
The man has been in detention in Australia since March 2000.
Human rights lawyer Natalie Bugalski says democracy campaigner Ardeshir Gholipour fled Iran for Australia five years ago, after being jailed for pro-democracy activities.
Ms Bugalski says Mr Gholipour was hospitalised after trying to take his life on Friday when his requests for a humanitarian visa were rejected by the Government.
"He's scared that his life will be in danger or he'll be tortured and he can't bear the thought of going through any of that again and would rather take his own life rather than go through that," she said.
A spokesman for the Immigration Department has confirmed Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone will not intervene in the case and deportation is an option.
Rebel writer faces extradition to IranThe Age
By Meaghan Shaw
January 21, 2005
An Iranian writer, once detained in his home country for distributing pamphlets on behalf of the Iran Freedom Movement, faces deportation from South Australia's Baxter immigration detention centre.
The imminent return of Ardeshir Gholipour has alarmed an international writers group that campaigns for writers harassed, imprisoned and sometimes killed for their views.
The group, International PEN, believes he has a real fear of persecution for his political activism if he is sent back to Iran.
"His involvement in the Iran Freedom Movement and the Left Union for Democracy in Iran makes him particularly vulnerable to repression," the chairwoman of PEN's writers in prison committee, Karin Clark, said in a letter to Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone.
"PEN has on its records at least 13 writers currently detained in Iran, serving lengthy sentences for reasons which have been condemned internationally as clear breaches of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights."
Gholipour was an outspoken supporter of democratic reform in Iran between 1985 and 2000.
In 1987 he was arrested and spent more than 21 months in Iran's notorious Evin prison for distributing freedom pamphlets.
He also wrote articles for a newspaper that criticised the Iranian Government and called for constitutional change. A colleague at the paper was murdered in 1998.
Gholipour fled Iran in 1999 after taking part in student demonstrations and has been detained in Australia since 2000.
He gained many supporters in Australia because of his work on behalf of other detainees and after he painted murals at the Port Hedland detention centre to raise the spirits of child detainees.
Melbourne writer Arnold Zable said Gholipour tried to commit suicide last Friday when the detainee learned that Senator Vanstone had decided not to intervene to grant him a visa.
Australian Democrats deputy leader Andrew Bartlett said it would be "negligence" on Australia's part to forcibly return Gholipour.
A spokesman for Senator Vanstone said if Gholipour's supporters had any new information on his case, it would be considered by the Immigration Department.
Link to the article in The Age
Artist in the frame for visaThe Sunday Times
23 January 2005
By Paul Lampathakis
page 30 (not online)
A man dubbed the Michelangelo of Port Hedland Detention Centre has been given a second chance to stay in Australia.
Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone is reconsidering whether the Iranian asylum seeker, who spent about two years at the centre, should be deported.
A spokesman for Senator Vanstone told The Sunday Times yesterday that the Department of Immigration had received new information about pro-democracy activist Ardeshir Gholipour. A journalist, Gholipour was due to be sent back to Iran after the department refused his application for a visa on humanitarian grounds.
He attempted suicide last week when he received the news. But the spokesman said the department would consider the new information and make a recommendation to Senator Vanstone, probably next week.
Gholipour, 37, painted many murals at the centre, including Disney characters designed to cheer up child detainees. When the Port Hedland centre closed last year, he was sent to South Australia's Baxter detention centre.
Human rights lawyer Natalie Bugalski said that Gholipour, who came to Australia in 2000, faced death or torture if he returned to Iran. She said his case for asylum was one of the strongest she had come across. When he was 19, Gholipour was imprisoned and tortured for more than a year for pro-democracy activities such as writing and distributing pamphlets, she said.
He has left Iran secretly in March 2000 after being targeted by the government for writing pro-democracy articles and for being a member of pro-freedom groups.
New information about the case came in a letter from the London-based International PEN organisation. Headed by controversial author Salmon Rushdie, it investigates and defends jailed writers worldwide.
"He has real reason to fear persecution for his legitimate and peaceful activism should he be returned to Iran," the letter said.