Published February 1, 2017
Grapevine has just received word that Amir Shokrgozar, an asylum seeker from Iran, is currently in police custody. He will be deported to Italy tomorrow morning.
A close friend of Amir’s contacted Grapevine and informed us that Amir, who has been living in Iceland for nearly two years now and is engaged to an Icelandic man, is currently being detained by capital area police.
He had reportedly been in the hospital since last Monday, for reasons Grapevine is not at liberty to confirm. This morning, police arrested him, and brought him straight into custody without allowing him to even go home and gather his belongings first. His fiancé, who is in the process of gathering Amir’s belongings for him, was too distraught to speak to Grapevine at the time of this writing.
Amir’s legal options for asylum in Iceland have run their course, and as such, any further legal attempts to establish residency in Iceland will have to be conducted from abroad.
Pirate Party MP Gunnar Hrafn Jónsson, who as a journalist for RÚV has covered matters in the Middle East extensively, expressed sadness and horror at the news.
“I haven’t been able to make any deep study of this man’s case but simply having come forward to tell the media he is gay,” he told us. “That is more than enough to have him put to death by suspension hanging in front of a crowd of screaming onlookers. I have seen videos smuggled out by activists and they rival ISIS in brutality, death takes a long time to come. If there is any chance he could get sent back to face that fate, that has to be a key factor in considering his asylum request.”
Although he is engaged to an Icelandic man, legal red tape has made it virtually impossible for him to gather the necessary paperwork to make their marriage a reality. This is primarily due to the fact that Icelandic law requires foreigners to provide proof of their marital status from their home country in order to get married in Iceland – something Iran is unwilling to do, least of all for homosexuals.
As reported, Amir left his home country of Iran due to persecution for his sexuality.
“My father was executed in the beginning of the Iranian Islamic revolution, when I was only two,” he says. “So my mother raised me and my three sisters on her own but the family was always under the mercy of the government, because of my father. Then I was reported to the authorities for being a homosexual so I was at risk of being arrested. [Iran has capital punishment for sexual conduct with person of the same-sex.] So because of my safety I was forced to flee from Iran.”
During his flight, he ended up in Italy where, despite not wanting to seek asylum there, he was fingerprinted and put in a refugee centre. There, his nightmare began.
“What I went through in the refugee camp in Italy was very difficult for me,” he said. “I experienced physical and psychological harassment so I left the camp and was living on the streets for 6 months. That time was very difficult; there were times when I had to go and sleep under the table of other refugees. And sometimes I didn‘t even have that possibility. Sometimes I didn‘t even have anything to eat and so I had to say yes to people who asked me to have sex with them instead. But they often treated me really badly, cutting me, beating me up and throwing me out of their house. So I experienced a lot of psychological, physical and sexual violence in Italy.”
Since arriving in Iceland, he has been active with learning Icelandic at Tækniskólinn, as well as volunteering at the Red Cross and Samtökin ’78.
Despite all this, the Directorate of Immigration and the Immigration Appeals Board have rejected his request for asylum in Iceland, and will deport him back to Italy.
Auður Magndís Auðardóttir, Director of Samtökin ’78, told Gay Iceland that immigration authorities are woefully ignorant about the challenges and hardships LGBTI+ asylum seekers face, and this case in particular is especially egregious.
“We are talking about a gay man who has suffered barbaric violence and is because of that mentally quite ill,” she said. “The Directorate of Immigration doesn’t doubt his sexuality or how he feels, but still doesn’t come to the conclusion that he is in a sensitive position. To me that’s absolutely incomprehensible. Either it shows a total lack of empathy or ignorance when it comes to the reality that queer asylum seekers are faced with.”
As it stands now, Amir will be sent to Italy early tomorrow morning at an as yet unspecified time. His fiancé may be issuing a statement about this situation shortly. Grapevine will keep readers updated on any developments as they arise.