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Asylum Seeker In Imminent Danger

Asylum Seeker In Imminent Danger

Ardeshir Gholipour is an Iranian asylum seeker who has been in Australian immigration detention since March, 2000, having fled Iran earlier that year.

Between 1985 and 2000, Ardeshir exhibited great courage as an outspoken supporter of democratic reform in Iran. International PEN, an organization representing writers in 99 countries, has confirmed that Ardeshir was indeed an active member of the Iran freedom movement, and that "he has a real reason to fear persecution for his legitimate and peaceful activism should he be returned to Iran."

On Friday, January 14, 2005, Ardeshir Gholipour learnt that the Minister of Immigration, Senator Amanda Vanstone, had refused his request for a 417 humanitarian visa. In effect, this means that Gholipour is in danger of imminent deportation to Iran.

Gholipour's case is significant for a number of reasons. First, for his great courage in campaigning for democracy in Iran. In 1987 Gholipour was arrested and spent over 21 months in Iran's notorious Evin prison for distributing pamphlets on behalf of the Iran Freedom Movement. As a writer and designer for a number of provincial papers he produced articles on social reform matters.

Gholipour also wrote articles on behalf of the Left Union for Democracy in Iran, and participated in the student demonstrations of July 1999. He fled Iran in fear of his life.

Gholipour's case is also significant for the humanity and generosity of spirit he has displayed whilst in Australian immigration detention. He has gained many supporters in Australia because of his tireless work on behalf of other detainees, and also because as an artist, he painted numerous murals in the Port Hedland detention centre. These included uplifting scenes for children then held in detention. He was dubbed "The Michelangelo of Port Hedland."

He has since been shifted from Port Hedland to the maximum security Baxter detention centre and has continued to paint, and to donate his works for fund raising appeals, and to his friends and supporters. Ardeshir is an extraordinary person, a Sufi by religion, a universalist in spirit, a democrat by example, and a man of peace who has won many admirers and touched many people's lives.

International PEN and Australian PEN centres are extremely concerned about Gholipour's predicament. We fear for his safety, and for his fragile state of mind. After 5 years in detention, a resilient and courageous man has been finally driven to despair. On January 14, Ardeshir took an overdose of sleeping tablets. He was admitted to Port Augusta hospital and is now back in Baxter, but remains fearful and vulnerable. A man who has selflessly supported so many others, now deserves our support.

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