Kusha Bahrami

Iranian CO

My name is Kusha Bahrami and I am Persian, born in 1982 in Iran. I entered the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of Najaf Abad University in 2001, but I was expelled in 2003 because of my public protests against the theocratic state and the violations of womenís rights.

So, in 2004 I was called to perform my military service, which is compulsory in Iran and lasts two years, with no right to do alternative civilian service. I didnít want to serve at all, but I was forced to, following strong family pressure.

Kusha Bahrami (first on the left) during a protest at the UK embassy in Athens, Greece, on 4 March 2010

Three weeks after enlisting I was supposed to take a gun, but I refused because I am against weapons and I donít want to learn how to kill. I donít want to change my personality as the army wants it, to be a robot-killer. I donít want to be against my nature, and no authority can force me to see another human being as an enemy. First I was punished with six-hours of isolation because I didnít obey the order. Then they started threatening that they would send me to a military psychiatric clinic in order to cure my disorder and make me obey. A couple of days later I finally escaped because I decided to follow my ideology against military service, the army and the war.

According to the Iranian military law a soldier is declared a deserter after having left the army without permission for two weeks. Then the army searches for him at his home and three months later sentences him to prison in a military prison for a period equal to the period he was a deserter, with a maximum of five years. In addition he must perform his two-year military service.

Therefore when I escaped from the army I was forced to move to another town, Malayer, so as not to be arrested. But the family pressure on me was continuous and even stronger then and I got so depressed that during a family visit I attempted to commit suicide by drinking twenty imipramine pills at the end of 2005. I was transferred to the hospital by my mother and I was in a coma in the intensive care unit for three days.

Meanwhile the army had already gone three times to my family home in order to arrest me because I was wanted. So after I left hospital and had recovered a bit, I escaped from the country and crossed the border into Armenia in spring 2006 by truck without travel documents.

I stayed in Yerevan where I had the opportunity to learn more about the Christian religion and I finally converted to Christianity. At the beginning of January 2007 I returned to my family in Iran without travel documents. The police learnt that I was back and in the end of January 2007 they came to arrest me so that I would be sentenced to death for refusing Islam and promoting Christianity. They searched my home and they took my PC and many books I had, including religious books and forbidden books criticizing Islam. They arrested my brother thinking he was me but later they released him when they checked his identity card. They continued searching for me. So, in order to save my life I left my town and a couple of days later I crossed the border into Turkey on horseback without travel documents.

I was arrested on 5 February 2007 in AtatŁrk airport in Istanbul while I was trying to fly to Armenia. After six months in detention, and only after UNHCR intervened, the police allowed me to apply for political asylum. In total I was detained in Istanbul for eight months, from February to September 2007. On 2 January 2008 the UNCHR recognized me as a refugee at 1st instance for resettlement to USA (scheduled appointment at the USA embassy on 24 April 2008). But meanwhile the Turkish secret police was threatening to send me back to Iran. The harassment against me was so severe that I was forced to escape from Turkey to save my life around April 10th 2008, just two weeks before my appointment at the USA embassy.

I crossed the border into Greece on foot without travel documents and I was arrested the same day in Chimonio. I finally applied for political asylum and around one month later the police gave me a paper telling me that my application was rejected. After I completed three months in detention I was released and I came to Athens on 11 July 2008. The Greek Council for Refugees helped me to appeal against the rejection of my asylum application. Iíve been living in Athens since then waiting for my case to be finally judged.