The Ahmadiyya Jama Mosque (1984) on Keizerstraat in Paramaribo is operated by the Surinaamse Islamitische Vereniging.

Persecuted Religious Minority Asylum Seekers Detained at Turkish Border

Four months after they were beaten and detained in Turkey, 104 asylum seekers from a minority religious group, including 27 women and 22 children, are still hoping to gain entry into the European Union.

The refugees, from the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light, were violently prevented from entering Turkey to seek refuge in Bulgaria, an E.U. member, through an official border checkpoint in Turkey’s Edirne province on May 24.

Turkish border guards fired shots in the air and beat the refugees with batons, injuring nine women and 21 others, according to a report submitted to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres in August by CAP Freedom of Conscience, a European NGO with U.N. consultative status, and Human Rights Without Frontiers International, a nonprofit devoted to public policy issues aimed at strengthening democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

The asylum seekers, from a range of countries including Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Jordan and Thailand, claim they are persecuted in their homelands.

“If returned, they face a risk of further persecution and violation of their rights, including the right to be from torture, inhumane or degrading treatment, and their right to life,” argues the report. It adds that the refugees’ choice to approach the designated border crossing in Turkey followed their unsuccessful efforts to legally gain asylum in Bulgaria, including through appeals to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Bulgaria as well as Bulgaria’s State Agency for Refugees and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Moreover, says the report, the refugees’ attempt to enter Bulgaria through Turkey was in compliance with both international human rights law and Bulgarian national law, which allows for asylum applications through a verbal statement made in the presence of border police.

“The legality of their approach was further emphasized by the group carrying placards and posters with statements of human rights organizations publicly condemning the group’s severe religious persecution in their home countries,” adds the report.

The refugees’ plight, the report pointed out, is being monitored by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues.

The Ahmadi Religion believes in the sanctity of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad and is observed in at least 30 countries globally, including by many people with Islamic backgrounds.  

According to the report presented to the U.N., Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light members have been labeled as “heretics” and “infidels” in numerous countries because of their beliefs. Their persecution, they claim, has intensified since the publication of their faith’s gospel, “The Goal of the Wise,” in December 2022.