Passport confiscated and family in Iran threatened
Translated from DAGBLADET
Attempts made at threatening Consul Mohammed Reza Heydari to continue his assignment at the Iranian embassy in Oslo.
DIANA BADIA and Arnhild AASS KRISTIANSEN
(Dagbladet): Consul general Mohammed Reza Heydari fears for his and his family's life after he resigned from his position at the Iranian embassy in Oslo just before Christmas in protest against the human rights violations and the rigged presidential election in his home country.
Today, he seeks asylum in Norway, and hopes to continue working for freedom and democracy in Iran from a base in Oslo.
Does not accept the resignation
Great political unrest has dominated Iran since the 12 June election, in which president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a hotly contested victory.
Heydari is the first Iranian top diplomat to openly criticize the country's regime and indicate his support for the freedom movement.
His resignation and statements have received international attention in recent weeks. This is also the reason why he does not dare to return home.
- They will commit inhuman acts against me and my family. Since one of their own has turned against the system, it will be punished very severely, Heydari says to Dagbladet.
The interview is held at a secret location in Oslo and the former consul receives close follow-up from the Norwegian police because of his situation.
Heydari has worked for Iran's Foreign Ministry for 20 years, including in Georgia and Germany, before he was transferred to Oslo in 2007.
For the last seven months, he has followed the development in Iran with increasing unrest.
- Time and again, I sat with my colleagues at the embassy watching the TV pictures from Iran's streets where people were beaten up, killed and oppressed. I can and will no longer support a regime that terrorizes and tortures its citizens. Together with my resignation, I also sent out an invitation to other Iranian embassy employees around the world to join the peace efforts.
Considering safety alarm
The Iranian Foreign Ministry has refused to accept his resignation.
Heydari has been pressured and threatened to either continue his assignment at the embassy or return to Iran.
- I was promised everything I wanted, if I would return to Iran and hold a press conference where I withdraw my remarks. I have lost everything I own in Iran, they took my passport and my family at home has already been visited by the Basij militia, but I have chosen my path and can not give in now, "he says.
The spokesman for The Norwegian-Iranian Support Committee, Saki Rahman, is concerned for Heydaris security.
- As long as the Iranian authorities believe that Heydari will return to Iran, he is safe in Norway. But we do not know what they will do when it becomes clear that he will not cooperate, says Rahman.
Together with the police, they now consider moving the consul and his wife and children to a secret address and equip the family with a safety alarm.
- I hope that the Immigration Directorate (UDI) will arrive at a quick decision in this matter. This is not a typical applicant, but a top diplomat with a very important job ahead of him. Both Jens Stoltenberg (prime minister) and Jonas Gahr-Støre (foreign secretary) has said that they support the Iranian people. This is a great opportunity to show it.
Long processing time
The Immigration Directorate denies that Heydari will receive special treatment because of his diplomatic status.
- Anyone who seeks asylum in Norway must meet the requirements for asylum, says Åsmund Eide, communications adviser in the Directorate of Immigration, commenting on the case in general.
- Heydari is deprived of his passport, will this be a problem for him?
- There are many asylum seekers without a passport. The rules are that they must substantiate their identity.
- This will perhaps be easier for Heydari than for many others?
- It may seem so.
In 2009, the UDI handled 639 asylum applications from Iran. According to Eide 33 percent received a residence permission.
- Processing time depends, however, of how difficult the case is, and how much information we must collect. The average time for an asylum application was last year 8 months. Some were processed faster and in some cases, we spent a long time, "he says.
The Iranian embassy in Oslo has refused to comment on the matter.