Iranian Refugees Demand Political Asylum in Greece, 2010


The campaigners sought to gain legal asylum in Greece and to speed up the process of refugee determination.

Time period

1 September, 2010 to 18 November, 2010



Location City/State/Province


Location Description

Front of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees's office (UNHCR) in Greece and university of Athens
Jump to case narrative

Methods in 2nd segment

  • Twenty-five asylum seekers go on strike in response to Greek government's silence about their requests.

Methods in 3rd segment

  • one woman and six men sewed their lips in objection to the lack of action by the Greek authorities.

Additional methods (Timing Unknown)

  • Online and International media

Segment Length

13 days


Iranian asylum seekers in Greece


Not known

External allies

Greek left party (ADARSYA); Committee of Immigrant Workers in Greece; International Federation of Iranian Refugee (IFIR); Iranian asylum seekers in Turkey

Involvement of social elites

not known


Greece government; Greece’s Deputy Minister of Interior

Nonviolent responses of opponent

not known

Campaigner violence

not known

Repressive Violence

not known


Human Rights



Group characterization

Iranian asylum seekers

Groups in 1st Segment

Refugee Asylum seekers in Greece

Groups in 4th Segment

International Federation of Iranian Refugee (IFIR)

Groups in 6th Segment

Greek left party (ADARSYA); Committee of Immigrant Workers in Greece

Segment Length

13 days

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

4 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


2 out of 3 points

Total points

7 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

Even though the campaign was success and all 45 protesters could receive legal residence status and rights in Greece. There are still a large number of asylum seekers who are coming every year from Middle East countries to Greece in order to apply for refugee status. They have to stay in Greece's refugees camps for a long time and struggle with asylum application processes.

Database Narrative

the 2000s a large number of Iran's educated and political activists fled Iran
due to social restrictions, political pressures and economic issues to seek
asylum in European countries in hopes of a better life. This emigration spiked
after the Iranian presidential election of 2009, which threatened political
activists working for democracy. The majority of Iranian refugees, like other
asylum seekers who fled from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, chose Greece because
its borders were accessible. In the past, Iranian refugees had been able to
petition the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office in Greece and
receive asylum. However, most of the Iranian asylum seekers who arrived in 2009
faced difficulty in Greece. The Greek United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees placed thousands of Iranian refugees on waiting lists. In the
meantime, many of the refugees lived in camps without sufficient shelter or

1 September 2010, about 45 Iranian refugees in Greece started a peaceful
protest in front of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office and
the University of Athens. Protesters occupied the area, camping in tents.  They protested to pressure the Greek
government to accept their applications for asylum. All of the protesters had
lived between four to twelve years in Greece’s refugee camps without any answer
to their requests for refugee status.  The protesters sent multiple letters to
Greece’s various government ministers.  After
more than forty-four days of the occupation, the Greek government had not

14 October 2010, twenty-five protesters announced a hunger strike after meeting
with Greece’s Deputy Minister of Interior. He told them that Greece would not
recognize them as refugees and grant them asylum. On 21 October 2010, one woman
and six men sewed their lips in protest.

members of the campaign who were on hunger strike deteriorated, especially the
members who had sewed their mouths. At the end of their second week, six
protesters were hospitalized. The Greek government denied the protesters use of
a public ambulance, and they had to rent one. At this time, the Greek
government still did not take any action, and refused to acknowledge the hunger
strike or comment upon it. Almost no mainstream Greek media covered the hunger

frustration, through the online media, the protesters requested support from all
international human rights activists since the Greek government was suppressing
their efforts. Iranian and Afghani asylum seekers in Greece and Turkey
supported them by spreading the story.  They
started using YouTube to broadcast their message as political asylum
seekers forced to flee Iran after facing harassment from the Iranian Islamic
government.   Particularly the images of
refugees sewing their lips drew global attention.

hunger strike began to gain international and Greek media coverage. Some organizations,
such as International Federation of Iranian Refugees (IFIR), Greek Left Party
(ADRSYA) and Committee of Immigration Workers in Greece, appealed to the Greek government
to act on the refugees’ cases. On 18 November 2010, after seventy-eight days of
protest and thirty-five days on hunger strike, the Greek government granted all
the protesters legal residence status in Greece.


There were previous examples of hunger strike in 2009 and 2008 by a few Iranian and Afghani refugee seekers that ended up in getting refugee status in Greece.


“Iranian asylum seekers in Greece sew up lips in protests.” Haaretz 18 October2010 : n.pag. Print
Jeffers, A. Refugees, theatre and: performing global identities. Basingstoke: United Kingdom. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Print.
“Refugees in Greece sew lips.” Iran times International 5 November 2010 : n.pag. Print.
Sadeghi , Mohammad .“A Hellenic hell for refugees.” Gozzar: Iranian advisory Council 15 Sep.2006.Web.25 Aug. 2010.
“In support of Iranian refugees in Greece.” 28 October 2010.Iran solidarity. 13 July. 2009. Web. 28 October 2010.
“Iranian asylum seekers sew mouths shut to protest Greek mistreatment.” French 24 International news,2006, Web. 25 October 2010.
“Short history of hunger Strikes by refugees.” The boarder is the problem.W2eu, 2009.Web.1 December 2010.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Anonymous, 22/11/2013