Fatemeh Derakhshandeh Tosarvandan weeps with her son, Hessam, after being initially told they'd be deported next Tuesday. Beside them is the woman's sister, Zarah Derakhshandeh.
A refugee who claims she could face death by stoning if sent back to Iran says she is feeling emotionally tortured by indecisive border officials.
Fatemeh Derakhshandeh Tosarvandan, 41, emerged in shock after a meeting with the Canada Border Service Agency Wednesday, where she was told she and her 16-year-old son, Hessam, would be put on a flight to Tehran on Oct. 2 — three days short of having a chance to present new evidence to support her claim for asylum.
“They are going to deport me three days before I could have my pre-removal risk assessment (PRRA). It’s just not fair. They don’t care that my life, my son’s life, will be in danger,” said Tosarvandan, before breaking down in tears.
But shortly after the meeting, Tosarvandan got a phone call telling her the flight had been cancelled — again — until further notice. She had originally been scheduled for deportation last Thursday.
“This is a torture for us,” said Tosarvandan, one of the first to be ordered deported to Iran since Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird severed diplomatic relations with the country, calling Iran one of “the world’s worst violators of human rights.”
Tosarvandan’s refugee claim was refused on Oct. 5, 2011, and she is banned from obtaining a risk assessment for one year under a controversial new law introduced by the Stephen Harper government this summer.
A PRRA would allow officials to review the risks of sending her back to Iran, with the aid of new evidence she has recently obtained proving that she faces adultery charges lodged by her estranged husband. Adultery is considered a serious crime in Iran, carrying a potential death penalty.
Ottawa introduced a one-year ban on refugee claimants obtaining a PRRA in June, in hopes of speeding up deportations of failed claimants. In conducting a risk assessment, officials must review whether the conditions and circumstances in a deportee’s homeland have changed.
Tosarvandan claimed her abusive husband cooked up the charges against her, but she was unable to provide evidence at her refugee hearing. Her lawyer, Lisa Winter-Card, only managed to obtain the relevant documentations recently.
About a dozen protesters hoisted banners and posters to show their support for the woman outside the border agency’s Airport Rd. office.
“The risk Fatemeh faces is really high. Life is hell for women in Iran. If she doesn’t face stoning, she will face lashing,” said Medi Shams of No Deportation to Iran, a grassroots advocacy group for Iranians in exile.
Vafa Nematy showed up at the protest after learning Tosarvandan’s story because she, too, fled an estranged husband to Canada with her young son 17 years ago.
“Women in Iran continue to be abused by the system, by their husbands, their brothers and fathers. Men have a lot of power in Iran and the law is always on their side,” said Nematy, who now works in marketing.
Winter-Card said she is disappointed border officials would rather continue to put Tosarvandan’s life in limbo than officially defer her deportation until Oct. 5 and conduct a risk assessment.