On 24 May, over 100 members of the Ahmadi Religion – women, children and elderly people – from seven Muslim-majority countries, where they are considered heretics, presented themselves at the Turkish-Bulgarian border to lodge a claim for asylum with the Bulgarian Border Police but they were denied access to it by the Turkish authorities.
A few days later, a Turkish court released a deportation order concerning over 100 members of the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light from seven countries. Many of them, especially in Iran, will face imprisonment and may be executed if they are sent back to their country of origin. On 2 June, the lawyers of the group lodged an appeal.
Willy Fautré interviewed Ms Hadil El Khouli, the spokesperson of the Ahmadi asylum-seekers, for The European Times. Hadil El Khouli is a member of the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light community in London and she is the human rights outreach coordinator at the religion.
Interviewing Hadil El Khouli
European Times: For several days, over 100 Ahmadis from seven countries have been stuck at the border between Turkey and Bulgaria. What is their situation?
Hadil El Khouli: I woke up on horrible news this morning that literally made my stomach turn.
Just as we filed an appeal yesterday against a deportation order by Turkish authorities to return 104 members of the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light, reports emerged of physical violence, torture and threats of sexual violence by the Turkish police in Edirne, against our members in detention.
A health report put together by the legal team representing the group shows that 32 out of 104 members in detention reported injuries and bruises from the beating, including 10 women and 3 children.
European Times: How did you get to know the testimony of one of the victims?
Hadil El Khouli: Through a leaked audio recording from inside detention, Puria Lotfiinallou, a 26-year-old Iranian youth, recounts harrowing details of the severe beatings he and other members endured.
“They hit me and knocked my head on the ground. They took me to the police station, pulled my hair, hit me on the ground several times and beat me.”
Physical violence was not the only form of abuse the group was exposed to. Puria then proceeded to narrate how Turkish Gendarmerie threatened him with sexual violence, asking him to perform oral sex on him, and saying that they would kill him if he tells anyone.
“Then they took me to the bathroom and here he told me that you should give me a blow job…they told us to falsely say that we are fine and if we don’t say that we are fine, we will hit you and kill you.”
As Puria’s disturbing account was heard over the phone, I could not get his voice out of my mind, a visible stutter could be heard out of fear and shock of what he witnessed.
European Times: What sort of violence were other Ahmadis subjected to?
Hadil El Khouli: Puria also added how even the most vulnerable people were not spared. Elderly men and women with bad health conditions, were beaten until they fell unconscious.
Puria’s account is just one of many we have been receiving over the past few days from men and women of various ages and nationalities, showing Turkish authorities’ deliberate targeting of our members in detention. It is an outrageous violation of international human rights law, international refugee law and freedom of religion.
European Times: What do the Ahmadi asylum-seekers risk if they are sent back to their country of origin?
Hadil El Khouli: The 104 asylum seekers, including 27 women and 22 children from over seven different countries, come from Muslim-majority countries where they are considered heretics and infidels. They are at risk of cruel and inhumane treatment, imprisonment and even death sentence in a country like Iran if Turkey deports them back to their countries of origin.
European Times: How do the Turkish and foreign media cover this issue?
Hadil El Khouli: The tragedy of this pressing situation is being made worse by the media’s absence on the spot and lack of reporting on this issue. There was however a Scottish journalist who tried to cover the issue. He was beaten by the police and detained.
We have been struggling to get international media’s attention to properly report on such an urgent humanitarian crisis. The Turkish state media is reporting false news accusing the journalist of being an agent and a spy for the UK.
Turkey must be held accountable for these grave human rights abuses, the perpetrators must be prosecuted, reparations must be delivered and justice must be served for the victims.
EDITORIAL NOTE: Shall anyone seek contact with Ms. Hadil El Khouli, her contact are: firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 7443 106804