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Uzbek Refugees Forcefully Deported From Turkey To Iran

Amnesty International says it is concerned over the forceful deportation of 24 Uzbek refugees from Turkey to Iran.

Turkish authorities handed over the refugees, including a number of children, to a group of unidentified individuals in Iran on September 12. Amnesty is calling on the Iranian government to prevent their deportation to Uzbekistan.

"There are concerns, obviously, of them having been deported to Iran," Maisy Weicherding, Amnesty's researcher on Uzbekistan, told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service. "Iran could send them back to Uzbekistan and then we would have very serious concerns about their safety because we believe that they would be at risk of incommunicado detention, torture, ill treatment, unfair trial, and long prison terms in degrading conditions in Uzbekistan."

An Uzbek refugee who remained behind in Turkey told RFE/RL that those who were deported had been invited to a police station, where they thought they were to be given schoolbooks for their children. When they arrived, they were bused to the Iranian border.

"In Iran, they were handed over to a group of unknown people who might have links to the Iranian security services," said the refugee, who wished to remain anonymous. "They told me by phone from Iran that they were threatened by these people -- death threats."

The refugees fled Uzbekistan in 1995 when the government began a campaign of repression against Muslims. They traveled to Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Iran before ending up in the Turkish town of Van in 2007.

Most members of the group registered with the UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR, once in Turkey and waited to be relocated to a third country. A representative of the UNHCR in Istanbul, Metin Karabatir, confirmed their refugee status to RFE/RL.

Karabatir says his office has sent a letter to Turkish authorities, demanding an explanation for why the Uzbeks were deported to Iran.

(by Khurmat Babadjanov of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service)

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