Haleh arrested in Iran upon deportation

Posted by admin on Dec 9th, 2004

Women’s activist charged with leaving Iran illegally

Global BC, 9 December 2004

Haleh Sahba was arrested in Iran after she was deported from Canada Tuesday. Sahba told immigration officials she feared persecution in her country due to her work as a women’s rights activist. An Iranian woman deported from Vancouver was arrested within minutes of her return to Tehran, but was released after spending many hours in detention. Haleh Sahba, 30, now faces charges of leaving Iran illegally.

Sahba lived in the Vancouver area for three years after fleeing her home country, where she had been jailed for defending women’s rights.

She told Immigration Canada that she feared for her life if she was forced to return to Iran, but was refused refugee status and deported on Tuesday.

Sahba’s family has now sent letters to every MLA in the province asking for their support to win her return to Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.


Woman deported from B.C. awaits trial in Iran

CTV.ca, 9 December 2004

An Iranian women’s rights activist who was deported from Vancouver recently, despite telling immigration officials that she could be sentenced to death, is awaiting a court date.

Haleh Sahba was detained and released in Iran after being forced to leave Canada Tuesday, according to her sister.

She is facing several charges including leaving Iran illegally.

A lawyer in Iran sent a letter to Canadian authorities saying that she could be tried at an Islamic court where the maximum punishment is death.

Her sister Laleh Sahba told CTV’s Renu Bakshi that she had been detained at Tehran Airport for 26 hours upon her arrival.

She tearfully recounted her conversation with her sister after she was released.

She said she pleaded over the phone “to please bring her back.”

Canadian immigrations officials said 40 Iranians were deported from British Columbia in the past year and there hasn’t been proof of any torture, Bakshi reported.

Sahba’s lawyer told CTV’s Rob Brown that she didn’t do everything in her power to stay.

Peter Larlee said that she failed to ask a federal judge to review her denied refugee claim.

Her lawyer at the time, Lee Rankin, could not recall why they didn’t seek the judicial review but said it is usually because clients cannot afford the expense.


Woman deported from Canada faces stoning or jail. David Carrigg. The Province. Dec 24, 2004

Province, 24 December 2004
David Carrigg

An Iranian woman deported from Canada this month was charged, handcuffed and struck twice upon her arrival in Iran. “She was detained as soon as she arrived and taken away in handcuffs,” Del Press, a friend and advocate of the woman, Haleh Sahba, said yesterday.

“She was asked to sign a declaration condemning the Canadian government. It’s standard fare for anybody arriving who is a failed refugee claimant. She refused and was struck twice.”

Sahba had five charges laid against her and faces a sentence ranging from jail to being stoned to death, said Press.

Two charges relate to her leaving Iran illegally and one relates to her role as a women’s-rights activist at the University of Tehran.

Press said the two other charges were unexpected and the Sahba family has asked her not to reveal what those charges are.

Sahba fled Iran in 2000, fearful her husband was going to kill her.

Sahba’s parents and other family members live in Burnaby. Because Sahba arrived illegally she became a refugee claimant. Her claim was rejected, and she was deported Dec. 7.

Iranian authorities held Sahba for 26 hours then allowed her to leave after her father, who returned to Iran, paid bail. She must report to police every day at 10 a.m.

She will be tried in two weeks.

“The biggest issue is the lack of sensitivity to women from these countries,” Press said. “Women even in Canada aren’t very comfortable talking about physical abuse from husbands. In an Islamic culture that is fundamentally male, where men rule, they don’t deal with issues of abuse at all.

“Her only chance of coming back to Canada is if the Iranian government drops some of the charges,” allowing her to get a passport, Press said. “Then (immigration minister) Judy Sgro must allow her back in on a temporary resident’s visa.”

Bill Siksay, NDP MP for Burnaby-Douglas, and Paul Forseth, Conservative MP for New Westminster-Coquitlam, support Sahba. They claim her deportation is an abrogation of Canada’s commitment to human rights.


Rejected refugee faces peril in Iran

Vancouver Sun, 31 December 2004
Daphne Braham

Haleh Sahba, charged with speaking out against the state, needs Canada’s help. So where is Judy Sgro? For nearly a month, Haleh Sahba had to report to police every morning in Tehran to confirm she was still in Iran.

That she was free at all came at a high price. Her family, friends and relatives — all of whom live in Canada — put up four pieces of property in Iran, securing her freedom until her court date.

Haleh left Iran illegally four years ago to join her family. Once here, she applied for and was refused refugee status.

She is also charged with speaking out against the state of Iran and two undisclosed crimes — undisclosed by her family for fear that the Iranian government will deal even more harshly with Sahba if they speak out.

In Iran, the penalties range from flogging to execution.

Last week, Haleh’s father, Habib Sahba, along with three other men and a woman, signed affidavits, swearing that they would ensure Haleh appears in court when her case is heard Jan. 25. Since then Sahba and her father have left Tehran, where she didn’t feel safe, and gone to another part of the country.

Since then, Sahba has also learned that all four of her closest university friends, who worked with her to organize rallies in support of greater freedoms and rights for women during the late 1990s, are in jail.

Until Dec. 6, Sahba reported every day not to police, but to work at a downtown Vancouver Starbucks where she was a shift supervisor and such a valuable employee that Starbucks has written to Immigration Minister Judy Sgro promising it is more than willing to give Sahba her job back.

That ended abruptly following an hour-long hearing in Federal Court when Madame Justice Judith Snider ruled that if Sahba were sent back to Iran she “would not suffer irreparable harm,” since other failed refugee claimants had been returned without incident.

Snider said Sahba and her lawyer hadn’t provided any evidence that she would be at risk as a failed refugee and, as a result, the immigration officer couldn’t consider that.

The judge also called it implausible that Sahba’s ex-husband and his brother, who is a senior member of the terrorist group Hezbollah, would be any danger to Sahba.

The next day, the 30-year-old divorced woman and former student activist boarded a plane accompanied by a Canadian immigration officer en route for Iran.

She was arrested on arrival. During her 26-hour detention, she was struck in the face and head twice when she refused to sign a statement denouncing Canada.

Sahba’s sister, Laleh, who spoke to Haleh earlier this week, says Haleh is terrified. Laleh’s father told her that Haleh wakes up screaming with fear in the middle of the night. During the daytime, Haleh and her father go everywhere together, believing they’re safer that way.

Iran is a frightening place, especially for women. They can be arrested by religious police for such transgressions as wearing brightly coloured nail polish or even wearing brightly coloured sweaters.

The most recent horror brought to Western attention by Amnesty International was the November sentencing of Hajieh Esmailvand to death by stoning for having had an adulterous relationship. On Dec. 21, she was given a stay of execution, but there are still concerns that the rest of her sentence will be carried out. It includes five years in jail and 100 lashes.

Earlier this year, the son of Canadian Fatemeh Magd died after been flogged 80 times after being accused of corrupting his sisters, owning an illegal satellite dish and possessing medicines containing alcohol.

Mohsen Mofidi turned himself in to Iranian police in exchange for the release of his two sisters. The sisters were arrested by morality police at a party at their brother’s apartment, beaten with chains during their detention and were later sentenced to 130 lashes for having boyfriends. The sisters came to Richmond before their sentences were carried out.

The irony in Sahba’s case is that she would qualify as an immigrant. She speaks English, has a university education and 17 of her family — all of them except a religious uncle who despises her because of her divorce — live in Canada.

But Sahba, twice denied a visa to leave Iran, believed her only hope of joining her family was to leave illegally.

She paid thousands of dollars to a human trafficker who secured flights for her from Turkey to Malaysia to Germany and then to Canada, and eventually robbed her of both her real Iranian passport and a fake one.

She checked the refugee claimant box on the form when she arrived at Vancouver International Airport, setting in motion a process that makes it impossible to then apply as an immigrant.

Sahba’s family cling to the hope that before her Tehran court date on Jan. 25, the immigration minister will issue a temporary- resident permit to Sahba.

That would be the documentation she needs to leave Iran and get on an airplane bound for Canada. It would also allow either a European country or the United States to intervene and provide her with even temporary sanctuary.

While even criminals don’t seem to be deported from Canada these days, it appears that Sahba’s “crime” is that she either knowingly tried to jump the immigration queue or she got a lot of bad advice from smugglers and lawyers about how to be a successful refugee.

Whichever it was, surely even Sgro should recognize that any further punishment the Iranian authorities mete out is likely to be totally out of proportion to Sahba’s crime of wanting to be close to her family.

And it might be a small step toward Sgro putting the immigrant- stripper scandal behind her.

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