Fleeing Iran, imprisoned in Italy: the ordeal of two Iranian asylum seekers in Italy

  Marjan Jamali and Maysoon Majidi, who fled the Iranian regime in search of freedom, have been imprisoned in Italy for months. Accused of being smugglers without any concrete evidence, they have endured months of detention, separation and legal misunderstandings. Their stories highlight the superficiality of investigations and the rush to find a scapegoat
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Marjan Jamali, 29, fled the regime of the ayatollahs, seeking refuge in Italy. She never imagined that she would end up in prison and a mental institution, separated from her son, and driven to attempt suicide twice.

Less than a year ago, Jamali was full of hope. She left Iran for Turkey with her 8-year-old son Faraz. They then boarded a sailboat bound for Europe, each paying $14,000 for the perilous journey. Among the 106 passengers were Iranians and Iraqis, and tensions soon arose on board. Food supplies dwindled, water ran out, and Jamali was assaulted by three Iraqis, only to be saved by a fellow Iranian.

A Nightmare Begins

The nightmare had just begun. Upon their arrival at the port of Roccella on the Calabrian coast, after a harrowing voyage with towering waves, the police asked the usual question: who are the smugglers?

“She is,” pointed the three assailants.

It was October 2023. The situation was far from straightforward. The Iranians spoke Farsi, the interpreters did not, and the documents were all in Arabic. Jamali likely didn’t understand why she was imprisoned, why her son was taken from her, and why she was accused of “facilitating illegal immigration,” a crime that can carry a sentence of up to 20 years.

Twice in prison, Jamali attempted to overdose on psychiatric medication.

She was then transferred to Sicily, to the psychiatric ward of the Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto prison, a former criminal asylum, for a month of psychiatric observation. Meanwhile, her son was placed with an Afghan family in Camini, near Riace in Calabria.

This entire ordeal was based solely on the accusations of the three Iraqi men upon arrival. There was no investigation, no preliminary hearing. As is often the case, the three quickly vanished from Italy. The shoddy investigation was further evidenced by the incorrect surname in the records—she was referred to as Qaderi instead of Jamali, a mistake that could have been avoided by simply checking her passport.

Magistrates often rush to find a culprit, especially since the political focus has shifted to blaming “smugglers” for immigration issues.

Only at the end of May 2024, after seven months in detention, was Jamali released from Reggio Calabria prison to await trial under house arrest, at least allowing her to be near her son.

Imprisoned for Keeping Calm

A similar fate befell Maysoon Majidi, 27, detained in Castrovillari. A Kurdish women’s rights activist and filmmaker, she fled Iran after the protests for Mahsa Amini to save her life.

In Italy she was accused of being a smuggler on the basis of two witnesses – one who said she spoke to the captain, another who said she handed out water and ‘kept calm’. The other 73 passengers were not questioned.

These flimsy charges have kept Majidi in detention since December 2023, during which time she has lost 14 kilos. Her accusers have now reached England and Germany.

Once again, the case appears to be a mixture of a rush to find a scapegoat, translation errors, and witnesses misunderstandings.

Crucial evidence of Majidi’s innocence emerges, including a receipt for the payment of her journey. In a dramatic twist, one of her accusers from Germany retracted his statement and confirmed that she was only a passenger.

Recently, Majidi began a hunger strike, saying, “This is almost worse than in Iran; at least there I knew my enemy.

La Spoon River dei braccianti

Il libro
La Spoon River dei braccianti

Otto eroi, italiani e no, uomini e donne.
Morti nei campi per disegnare un futuro migliore. Per tutti.
Figure da cui possiamo imparare, non da compatire.

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