Finland: Iranian Kurd hiding in church to be granted a residence permit

In Iran Naze Aghai was a member of an illegal left-wing Kurdish guerrilla movement and served as a courier, transporting money and propaganda material. Additionally, she entered into a forced marriage with an informant of the Iranian secret service. (UNHCR, PDF, English; Azady, Dutch)


Iranian Kurd Naze Aghai, who had been given sanctuary by a Lutheran church in Turku, is to be granted a residence permit in Finland.

The Helsinki Administrative Court on Thursday overturned a decision by the Directorate of Immigration (recently renamed the Finnish Immigration Service) to refuse Aghai entry. The decision means that the directorate will be compelled to grant her a residence permit.

Jouni Lehikoinen, Vicar of the St. Michael's parish in Turku, which offered its assistance to Aghai, said that he believes the publicity that the case has received in Finland has affected the outcome.

"Because of it, she might have faced persecution in Iran", Lehikoinen said.

The Aghai case reached the public eye when the parish took her under its wing in June last year. At that time Aghai had been in hiding for about three months, to avoid being sent back to Iran.

The case has also been seen as a precedent in seeking sanctuary from a church.

Last year the Finnish Ecumenical Council gave instructions to churches on offering sanctuary. According to the guidelines, Christian parishes are obligated to help if someone asks for assistance, fearing that his or her life is in danger.

Aghai has emphasised that she would face torture and death in her home country. She has taken part in the activities of a banned party, has refused marriage, and sought sanctuary in a Christian church in Finland.

"The decision was a great relief. Naze already has a place to live in Turku, an apartment provided by the parish, and friends in the city. I hope that she will stay in Turku and get her life in order", Lehikoinen says.

Aghai came to Finland in February 2005, and her asylum application was turned down in October of that same year. Later the Administrative Court rejected her appeal over the decision, and the Supreme Administrative Court refused to hear an appeal.

When Aghai was supposed to have been deported in March 2007, she went into hiding.

St. Michael's' parish helped Aghai organise her living arrangements, and to draw up a new asylum application, which the Directorate of Immigration rejected in September.

However, the Administrative Court now ruled that the deportation order should not be implemented.

Source: HS (English)

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