Families of Iranian Kurdish asylum seekers, who were deported to Syria by Turkey, gathered in front of the Turkish embassy in Tehran for the second day in a row on 15 December, demanding the release of their family members.

The Turkish police had detained Kurdish asylum seekers Damavand Pakseresht, Mobin Valadbeigi, Afshar Rostami, Bahman Shadravan, Massoud Heidari, Saeed Ahmadi, Fardin Darvishpour, Hedayat Rokhzadi and Samran Khezrpour 117 days ago.

Turkey handed the civilians over to Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces in Syria. They are currently being held in prison in Syria.

So far, Turkish embassy officials have refused to meet with representatives of the families.

The families have only been able to deliver a letter to the embassy. They have received neither a reply to the letters nor to their request to meet with embassy officials.

A family member of the refugees that spoke to the Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN) said: “Since yesterday, 14 December, a group of families of the nine Kurdish asylum seekers from the cities of Paveh [in Kermanshah province] and Sardasht [in West Azerbaijan province] have gone to Tehran and gathered in front of the Turkish embassy. In the past few months, the families have tried to free these individuals through various government agencies in Iran, but so far, practically no action has been taken by the Iranian government for their release.”

According to the source, since the refugees were handed over to the FSA, the families have only received an audio file about them through a civil society organisation.

The source added: “According to the unofficial information we have received, these nine asylum seekers were detained for a while in a secret prison in the city of Azaz in [northwestern] Syria and were severely tortured during this period. They have also recently been transferred to a military prison in the city of Bab al-Islam on the Turkish-Syrian border. In this military prison, they are kept in harsh conditions without heating and sanitation facilities.”

“Along with these nine asylum seekers, 57 Kurdish asylum seekers from the Kurdistan Region [of Iraq] were also deported to Syria, but all of them were released after a while due to the following up of the representatives of the Kurdistan region’s parliament. But the authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran have so far taken no action to secure the release of these nine Iranian Kurdish citizens”, the source continued.

On 21 August, Turkish police had detained the nine Kurdish asylum seekers and 57 other asylum seekers from the Kurdistan Region of Iraq near Istanbul. Three days later, they were deported to Syria’s Azaz.

These people officially travelled from Iran to Turkey in April and May and tried to reach Europe by boat.

On 25 August, in a short phone call to their families, the Iranian Kurdish asylum seekers said they were being taken to a border city in Syria.

They told their families that they had first told the Turkish police that they were Syrian citizens. But when the Turkish government wanted to deport them to Syria, they revealed that they were Iranian citizens by showing their passports.

However, after separating these individuals from the citizens of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, the Turkish police forces deported each one separately to the city of Azaz and handed them over to the FSA.