Research Report: The Unprecedented Attempt of the Islamic Republic to Abduct Political and Civil Activists in the Region

10 April 2024 22:15

Hengaw, Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Amid mounting reports from reliable sources regarding the extensive endeavors of the Islamic Republic of Iran to abduct political and civil activists, the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights has initiated an extensive investigation. Our findings reveal that the Islamic Republic has infiltrated human trafficking networks in Turkey and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, aiming to apprehend and abduct political and civil activists residing in these areas.

Amidst the Woman, Life, Freedom/Jin, Jiyan, Azadi Movement, many individuals and activists from Iran have sought refuge in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and Turkey. Regrettably, the Islamic Republic, through the recruitment and manipulation of its operatives within human trafficking networks, is escalating the abduction and repatriation of these individuals to Iran.

Through firsthand accounts obtained from individuals involved in the asylum-seeking process in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Hengaw has learned that the Islamic Republic, leveraging its influence among agents purporting to assist asylum seekers en route to Europe, is unsettling the paths of asylum seekers traversing Turkey.

An activist residing in the Kurdistan Region, who has opted to remain anonymous, shared insights with Hengaw: “For some time, the IRGC intelligence has been actively seeking the identification of civil and political activists active in Turkey. Initially, they exert pressure on their families in Iran to cooperate. Subsequently, in cases of non-compliance, severe threats ensue, followed by demands for collaboration from political and civil activists in Turkey to identify others, in exchange for substantial sums and other inducements. IRGC agents primarily target individuals who go back to Iran from time to time. To facilitate this, they enlist the aid of human trafficking networks, middlemen, and currency exchanges.”

Additionally, Hengaw has uncovered a network of Islamic Republic agents operating under the guise of “aiding asylum seekers” in various regions of Turkey, particularly in the cities of Van, Istanbul, and Agri. This network aggressively engages with political asylum seekers with the intent to arrest, coerce, and extort them.

Another individual, residing in Turkey and choosing to remain anonymous, relayed to Hengaw: “Given the current circumstances, political asylum seekers should refrain from attempting to reach Europe at this juncture, if at all feasible.”

Moreover, Hengaw sources reveal that even prominent political activists and experienced human traffickers face severe pressure from the Islamic Republic. Failure to cooperate results in character defamation by the Islamic Republic.

An asylum seeker who recently returned from Turkey to the Kurdistan Region due to the aforementioned risks shared from personal experience: “I encountered persecution in Turkey and, recognizing the hazards of remaining there, opted to discontinue my journey and return.”

An informed source expressed concern that the modus operandi of the Islamic Republic has evolved significantly. They are now training individuals under the guise of political or party activists to gain the trust of political and civil activists. Educated individuals offer reduced transfer fees of up to 60–70%, enticing activists into traps.

The source further revealed that the Islamic Republic employs Kurdish agents to gain trust and facilitate the abduction and infiltration scheme. This tactic renders the process of abducting activists from Turkey to Iran somewhat simpler, as border guards are absent along these routes. The Islamic Republic is fully apprised of the identities and characteristics of activists entering Turkey from the Kurdistan region of Iraq, transporting them to Iran via operatives in Istanbul, Van, and Agri.

This precarious situation leaves many Iranian civil activists, particularly Kurdish activists, in a state of uncertainty and vulnerability in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The absence of robust human rights mechanisms, supported by larger and international human rights organizations, renders these routes perilous not only for Kurdish activists but for all civil activists. Many activists residing in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq refrain from disclosing their presence to safeguard their security, thereby hindering their civil activities.

Hengaw recently raised concerns regarding the high likelihood of the enforced disappearance of one of its colleagues, Hossein Bagheri (Jakan Baran), purportedly facilitated by Islamic Republic agents under the guise of aiding him in reaching Europe.

In light of these developments, the Hengaw Organization urges all political and civil activists seeking asylum in Turkey and the Kurdistan region of Iraq to share their testimonies and, in instances of threats, provide documentation to Hengaw for further action.

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