Hussain Kazemian: A former Shia militia member seeks asylum in Finland

by , under Hussain Kazmenian

Migrant Tales insight: This story below, written by Hussain Kazemian, an Afghan living in Finland, was of a countryman called Sadr, 27, who spoke on condition of anonymity about his failed request for asylum in Finland. He got his first rejection from the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) in spring 2016. Sadr appealed, but the administrative court  overturned it winter 2017. He is now waiting for the supreme administrative court’s decision on his second appeal.

Sadr was one of the hundreds of thousand undocumented Afghan refugees in Iran 1 who also entered and sought refuge in Finland in 2015. 

He had no idea how to carry a rifle, but after he was recruited and after some weeks of military training in Iran, he was prepared to fight as a soldier of the Iranian Shia militia on the front line in Syria. In the end, he had fears and escaped the war, but it was not possible for him to go back to Afghanistan because of the National Directorate of Security of Afghanistan (NDS), which detains anyone who took part in the conflict in Syria.

After living many years and working in different cities of Iran earning lower-than-normal wages, Sadr was detained many times and forced to be in deportation camps. Even if they sent him back to Afghanistan, he returned to Iran to work. He joined the Iranian Shia militia only to get a residence permit 2 in Iran.

“It was frustrating for me to do construction work and get paid lower wages than normal,” he said. “Sometimes the employer did not even pay me my wages because he knew I didn’t have the right to complain in that country since I was an undocumented Afghan refugee. Nevertheless, I decided to go to a registration office and have a look and ask questions about becoming a member of the Shia militia.”

Sadr said that organizers, who were both Afghans and Iranians, preached a lot about religion.

“They asked my name and a phone number and also offered to pay 500 US dollars in wages per month and grant me a resident permit, even for a family,” he continued. “All of this was very tempting that any Afghan refugee would take and sacrifice himself to help his family.”

“I asked myself how could I join if I had never carried a rifle,” Sadr said. “Anyway, I got a phone call the day I applied and was told to go to a place where some other Afghan refugees and I trained for some weeks. We were then flown to Damascus, the capital of Syria.”

Sadr continued: “I had never witnessed such horrible fighting not even in the movies when I was in Syria. Commanders just ordered and pushed us into battle on the front lines, and we tried to hold back our tears as fire and bombs exploded all around us. For the first time, someone tried to shoot at me. I just lied on the ground yelling.”

After three months, Sadr returned to Iran.

“Relieved, I thought my mission was over, and I asked for the residence permit they had promised me,” he said. “This was not possible because the registration office told me that I still had to go back to Syria and fight the enemy. They said I could apply for a residence permit after a year.”

Sadr said that he did not kill anyone while in Syria and did not dare to go back to fight in that country.

“I suffer from nightmares and often see people being killed, injured and sacrificing their lives for a residence permit,” he concluded. “Imagine, all of this for a residence permit! I suffered abuse, and I am a victim of Iran’s foreign policy. I came to Finland to escape what happened, but no one believes me!”