Since last year's controversial elections in Iran, a large number of Iranian refugees -- many of them political activists -- have made their way across the border to Turkey. Although their lives are no longer in danger, these refugees are now finding themselves forced to deal with different hardships in Turkey. As The Times' Martin Fletcher reports:
Since the election in June last year more than 2300 Iranians have applied to the UN High Commission for Refugees for asylum in Turkey. Some are homosexuals or members of persecuted faiths but most are political and human rights activists, journalists, students, artists and ordinary Iranians goaded into action by the regime's denial of democracy.
The majority are young and single, some of the brightest and bravest of their generation, forced to flee secretly to avoid arrest at airports or border posts.
Turkey, which has diplomatic and economic relations with Iran, tolerates but hardly welcomes these dissidents. It denies them permanent refugee status and disperses them to 32 small cities around the country for the three years that it can take the UNHCR's overstretched officials to assess their asylum claims and find countries that will accept them.
The exiles, delivered from the terror of Iran, find themselves caught in another kind of prison - unable to speak Turkish, forbidden from leaving their assigned cities, in effect barred from working or engaging in political activity, and with no means of support beyond the little money they brought with them.
They must pay a $US200 resident fee that few can afford and report to the police twice weekly. They live in the worst housing, sometimes sleeping several to a room. A few work illegally but earn less than $US10 a day.
"We're stuck in limbo," said Karimi, one of 350 Iranians in Nigde, a city of apartment blocks flanked by barren hills of which the Lonely Planet guide writes: "You won't want to stay."
The exiles bear living testimony to the cruelty of the Iranian regime. At Karimi's party, Mohammed Reza Tayyebi, 24, showed the welts on his stomach where he was whipped. Ramin Haghjoo, 24, showed the bullet holes in his abdomen where he was shot during a street demonstration. Poorya Saeed Loo, 20, still bears the marks of the torture that he suffered during five days in Tehran's infamous Evin Prison - a long, deep wound on his forehead and Taser gun scars on his knees. He now limps.
Others bear psychological scars. Monireh Rabiee, 33, a sales manager, spent six months in Evin for daring to protest. She was kept in filthy, overcrowded cells, hit, verbally abused, interrogated for hours on end and subjected to a month in solitary confinement.
"Every night in my dreams I am back there," she said.