This week, an inquest recorded a verdict of suicide into the death of an Iranian asylum seeker, 26-year-old Hussein Nasseri, who was found with a gunshot wound two weeks after his asylum claim was refused.
Hussein, who was homosexual, fled Iran in March 2000 after being imprisoned for three months for his sexuality and sought sanctuary in the UK. He feared being executed if he was returned to Iran – where homosexuality is a ‘crime’ punishable by death. In June 2004, he received a letter telling him that his asylum claim had been refused and he faced deportation. One of his friends, Nader Ashkani, told the inquest ‘I saw him two weeks before he died. He was very upset. He said he wanted to kill himself. He said he had bought a gun to kill himself.’ Hussein was found dead on 25 June in the car park of an activity centre in Eastbourne, with a gunshot wound between the eyes. The coroner, Alan Craze, described the asylum refusal as ‘an obvious motive’ for Hussein’s suicide.
This is not the first recorded suicide of an asylum seeker fearing sexual persecution in Iran. In September 2003, Israfil Shiri, a destitute Iranian asylum seeker, died six days after pouring petrol over his body and setting himself alight in the offices of Refugee Action in Manchester. In Iran, he had been a dissident member of the Basij, a volunteer army concerned with enforcing Iran’s Islamic code. When the authorities obtained documented evidence of his life as a gay man, he fled to avoid exposure. In the UK, Mr Shiri’s asylum application had been rejected and he was homeless and penniless. He suffered from a painful bowel complaint but, after his asylum claim was refused, he was unable to get medical treatment and was in constant pain. In fact, he was unable to eat without bleeding and vomiting. While sometimes he stayed with friends, on other occasions the Iranian’s only shelter had been a wheelie bin.
And in 2004, a 50-year-old Iranian transsexual, whose asylum claim had failed, committed suicide in a detention centre in Carlslund, near Stockholm, Sweden. Despite previous suicide attempts, Kian had been left without supervision during the weekend. In Iran, Kiam had been whipped on account of being a transsexual.