Article Title:Application denied
Author or Credit:Jacqui Stanford
Published on:9th July 2012 - 01:20 pm
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Story ID:11970
Text:An Iranian hairdresser came to New Zealand last year claiming he was repeatedly interrogated and tortured because authorities thought he was gay. He has been denied refugee status. Why? Because the New Zealand Immigration and Protection Tribunal says his story lacks credibility, and simply doesn’t believe him. The Tribunal has released its full decision, which we summarise here. The hairdresser’s story: The man, in his late 20s, claimed while living in Tehran and working at a barber shop his non-conformist streak and his clothing and hairstyles created difficulties for him from time-to-time. He said it was not uncommon for people to mock him in the street or to “slap him on the back of his head as they rode past him on motorbikes”. The man said he also had encounters with local Basij, or volunteer militia, saying in 2005 he was caught drinking in a park with friends and was beaten and held for several hours. He said the following year he was again detained because he was walking un-chaperoned with his then-girlfriend, but was quickly released. The claimant said in 2008 he was detained by the Basij after an argument with a customer in his barbershop, who did not like the music he played and the way he wore his hair. The customer threatened to “get him” and a few nights later he was accosted by four Basij who took him to an isolated park. He said they beat him, cut him with a sharp instrument of some kind and shaved part of his head. The man then carried out his military service, and said he experienced difficulties because he was non-conformist. In March 2010 he says he made friends with a man who came into his shop, and quickly realised the man was gay, and became close with both he and his partner and spent much time socialising with them over six months. He said when authorities from the Ettela’at, or Ministry of Intelligence and National Security, became aware of the friendship he was questioned at his shop, and subject to five or six follow-up visits. Eventually, he said he was hauled in and told to write everything he knew about the couple down, the released and told not to leave Tehran. He claimed a few days later he was again detained, and driven to an unknown location where he was held in a cell for three or four days, and accused of being gay and distributing gay porn with his friends. He denied both, and says he was repeatedly punched and kicked, had his nose broken and was pressured psychologically. After being treated in hospital he took time off, and was questioned at his home, where he lived with his strongly religious parents, who were told he was gay, which he said they believed despite his denials. He was ordered to return to work and inform on any customers he through might be gay, and while he returned to work he said he did not inform upon anyone. The man claims that in January 2011 he was taken, blindfolded, to Ettela’at headquarters, detained and subjected to further ill-treatment, which resulted in him needing abdominal surgery. When back at work, he said he was taken for the final time, with a sack over his head, and held for six days. He was again asked about his friends and told the Tribunal he was bound and naked and threatened with sexual assault with a baton, then kicked and beaten until he made a written confession and was released. The man escaped Tehran and stayed with a family member until his father helped him leave for New Zealand, in late 2011. When he arrived here he applied for refugee and protected person status, which was declined by the Refugee Status Branch in February 2012. He claimed that if he were to return to Iran he would again be detained and subjected to adverse attention from the Iranian authorities. What the Tribunal found: The crux of the Tribunal’s decision to deny the man protected refugee status came down to his credibility, which it was far from convinced of. “The Tribunal rejects the appellant’s core claim to have befriended two homosexual men, and to have been subjected to an ongoing campaign of interrogation and physical mistreatment by the authorities because of that friendship,” it says. “The Tribunal’s findings in that respect are not based upon any single aspect of the appellant’s account. However, having considered his claim in itsentirety, the Tribunal finds that the appellant’s evidence is not truthful. While his evidence was in many respects, as counsel submitted, consistently delivered, it was nonetheless implausibly devoid of meaningful content. The appellant’s inability to provide basic information consistent with the type of friendship he claimed to have enjoyed with 'BB' and 'CC' was simply inconsistent with a truthful account about an actual relationship.” The Tribunal cited the fact he did not know the last names of his gay friends, where they worked, or who their families were. “The Tribunal was left with the clear impression that the appellant was simply making up answers as he went along, in an attempt to cover up an implausible lack of knowledge about his supposed friends,” the decision reads. The Tribunal found he bears scars “not inconsistent” with the ill-treatment he said he received from authorities in 2008 after an argument with a customer, and while it had confirmation he had abdominal surgery in January 2011, there was no evidence it was relevant to his mistreatment. It also threw out his claims of a major rift with his parents, and ruled he did not leave Iran for the reasons he claimed. “His claim to have been under investigation by the Iranian authorities because of his relationship with a homosexual couple is rejected,” it said. “The Tribunal does not accept that he has been seriously harmed for the reasons claimed and there is no credible evidence that the appellant is at risk of being detained or harmed by the Iranian authorities for those reasons in the future.” You can read the full decision here The Immigration and Protection Tribunal has granted refugee status to men who say they were persecuted for being gay in countries in the Middle East and Africa, after finding their stories had credibility and they would be in serious danger if they were sent home. will have more on soon as we continue to look at the issue of men who escape to New Zealand seeking a new life, free from oppression.     Jacqui Stanford - 9th July 2012
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