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England ignored a hunger strike, demonstrations, and hundreds of letters, emails, calls, and faxes on behalf of Bita Ghaedi, and looked all set to deport her back to Iran today. But nature intervened as the volcano that has kept Heathrow Airport closed for five days belched out fresh ash, grounding all flights in and out of Heathrow Airport for the sixth day in a row.
Stranded travelers are fuming, especially since they need to get home to their families. But some are calling it an act of God or a divine intervention.
And since the press is covering the volcanic ash explosion, they could not avoid the hundreds of protesters gathered outside the airport for Bita and turn blind to this gross violation of international law.
Bita Ghaedi’s case presents a slippery slope that has global implications for Iranian dissidents in other countries. If England ignores human rights standards and violates the international principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits forcibly returning a person to a country where her/his life or freedom would be threatened, it provides less of an incentive to other similarly situated countries to uphold the law. Bita Ghaedi undoubtedly warrants recognition as a refugee and merits protections under the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, to which England is a signatory. We must hold England accountable.
In the meantime, Bita is still being held at the notorious Yarl’s Wood Detention Center and remains at severe risk not only from the Iranian regime due to her political activities, but also from male members of her estranged family if she is deported back to Iran.
Photo Credit: Terence Bunch