The situation of 15 Algerian members of the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light, currently detained in Edirne, Turkey, for more than 80 days for attempting to seek asylum at the BUL/TUR border, has been gaining international attention. The group includes vulnerable members, including children, sick and elderly, and LGBTQ members. Despite a request for interim measures with the European Court of Human Rights for their release, national measures must be exhausted first.
Given the urgency of the situation and the severity of human rights abuses suffered by the group, an open letter has been written to the French Embassy in Istanbul, which offers humanitarian visas, asking them to afford an opportunity for the group to apply and lodge their claim for international protection on the basis of their religious persecution. The criteria for granting these visas are unclear, but political pressure and NGO support play a role.
The Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light is a minority religion that has faced severe persecution in their home countries. They have been labeled as “heretics” and “infidels” due to their beliefs and have been imprisoned, tortured, and targeted in Muslim-majority countries by state and non-state actors. The group has collectively fled their home country, Algeria, after the council of religious affairs in the county of Bejaia issued a religious decree against their faith. Despite the sentence being overturned by the High Court of Bejaia, dropping the charges and releasing the group, the religious decree was still in effect, and the court outlawed any further gathering of the group.
In December 2022, 15 of them fled the country to Turkey, where they were violently pulled back by Turkish authorities, beaten with batons, and detained before being transferred to the Edirne Removal Center, where they have been in de facto detention for the past 84 days, suffering horrendous ill-treatment and grave human rights violations.
The severity of human rights abuses and religious persecution suffered by the group in Turkey is confirmed by the considerable attention that the case is receiving from the press. Despite this, deportation orders were issued against them to return them to Algeria, subjecting them to further persecution and violations of their rights, including the right to be free from torture, inhumane or degrading treatment, and their right to life.
The group’s choice to present themselves at the official border checkpoint in Kapikule to claim asylum rather than using illegal smuggler routes was a conscious choice to act in accordance with international human rights law. Despite this, until this day, the members are subject to ongoing human rights violations by the Turkish authorities for their stance to seek legal pathways.
The open letter is addressed to the Consulate General of France in Istanbul, the French Ministry of Interior and Overseas Territories, and the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, requesting asylum visas for the 15 persecuted Algerians. The urgency of their request for a humanitarian visa is amplified by extreme vulnerabilities among the detained members.
The above information has demonstrated that the group has a well-founded fear of religious persecution and risks their right to freedom of expression and religion if they are forced to return to Algeria or to remain in Turkey. For this reason, numerous NGOs, including the IMFC, call for the Consulate General of France in Istanbul to issue an asylum visa to the above-mentioned members so their applications for international protection can be lodged and treated with full, individualized assessments in France in line with national law, European Union law, and international human rights law.
The open letter is included here:
We therefore request asylum visas (Visa au Titre de l'Asile) for the following 15 persecuted Algerians:
Asloune Nedjima, born on 02.07.1970
Belfiroud Ali, born on 08.05.2011
Belfiroud El Mehdi, born on 13.06.2014
Belfiroud Mohamed, born on XX XXX 1966
Benabdelmoula Fatima Zohra, born on 25.01.1976
Bensalah Ines Sabrina, born on 12.10.2005
Bensalah Rania, born on 07.11.2010
Bezai Youssra, born on 28.01.1990
Foufa Maryam, born on 01.04.2013
Foufa Redouane, born on 16.06.1969
Foufa Soumia, born on 09.07.1965
Habibi Mohammed Boudjelal, born on 14.09.1983
Lombarkia Rafik, born on 05.02.1968
Mazouzi Rabha, born on 06.09.1980
Salma Mihoub, born on 19.07.1967