Activists fight to prevent Iranian feminist’s deportation

Demonstrators are set to gather in Stockholm on Wednesday to protest the impending deportation of an Iranian woman’s rights activist and anti-Islam blogger after she was denied a Swedish residence permit.

Rana Karimzadeh has lived in Sweden since 2005 with her two daughters and chairs the Stockholm section of a support organization for Iranian refugees in Sweden and operates two blogs critical of Islam.

The content on Karimzadeh’s blogs is considered controversial by many in Sweden.

She has slammed plans for imam education and Islamic independent schools (friskolor) in Sweden, arguing instead that imams and Islamic movements ought to be banned from public sector activities.

Karimzadeh also sits in the central committee in the Worker-Communist Party of Iran – Hekmatist, an exiled political party opposed to the current regime in Iran.

“I’m worried about going back to Iran. I’m expecting to be punished for my opinions and my political activity,” she told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

“In Iran people are sentenced to prison simply for belonging to the party.”

While she’s managed to become an important and outspoken advocate for women’s rights and the rights of Iranian refugees in Sweden, Karimzadeh still lacks permanent residency in Sweden.

Her quest for permission to stay in Sweden received a major blow recently when the Migration Court affirmed an earlier decision by the Migration Board (Migrationsverket) not to grant her Swedish residency.

In its ruling, the court cast doubt on Karimzadeh’s assertion that her political activities put her at risk for reprisals from the Iranian authorities.

“The Migration Court judges, however, that the activity has not been of such a scope or undertaken on a level that is sufficient in and of itself to serve as grounds for the assumption that the authorities in Iran have an interest in Rana Karimzadeh,” wrote the court in its ruling.

The decision means that Karimzadeh and her two daughters must return to Iran, something that he friends and supports are not yet willing to accept.

“The court’s ruling is completely wrong. It’s extremely dangerous for Rana Karimzadeh to return to Iran. It’s saddening that the Migration Court, despite clear evidence about Karimzadeh’s activitie, has chosen to accept the Migration Board’s stance,” said Karimzadeh supporter Anders Finström in a statement.

Finström took up Karimzadeh’s cause in part because his own wife was deported from Sweden to Azerbaijan last year.

“I want to do what I can to stop more people’s wives from being deported,” he told The Local.

He believes the ruling conflict with Sweden’s legislation which prohibits the returning people to countries where they risk the death penalty, bodily harm, torture, or other inhumane treatment.

Karimzadeh can still appeal the case to a Migration Court of Appeal, but Finström admits the chances for a reversal are slim. However, he remains hopeful that, in the end, Swedish authorities will change their stance toward Karimzadeh’s claims that she could be harmed upon her return to Iran.

He pointed to a recent jailing of Iranian feminist author and Olof Palme prize recipient Parvane Ardalan as evidence that the situation for women’s rights activists in Iran is dire.

“They won’t dare send her back to Iran,” he said.