[ 01. Jul 2007 ]

Support Afghan Refugee Protesters - detained in Oslo!

Arrestation in Oslo, 21. Jun 2007 (from

The participants of an March of around 45 Afghan refugees against deportation in Norway, which started on 19th of May 2005, were arrested on 21st of June 2007. The authorities try to deport the refugees. Urgent call to support the protestes!


A self-organized group of around 45 Afghan refugees in Norway have been marching between May 19th and June 16th 2007. Their 650 km Asylum March follows a centuries old pilgrimage route to Trodheim which is the burial site of Olav the Holy, the founder of Christianity in Norway 1000 years ago. Pilgrims still go to Trodheim to seek penance or aid for sickess, along one of the most significant trajectories in the Norwegian symbolic geography. The Afghan marchers walked the pilgrimage route in the opposite direction, from Trodheim to Oslo, not to seek penance but to protest Norway's deportation of refugees.

Along the way they have been meeting with Norwegians, discussing the war in Afghanistan, refugee rights, at times organizing small public events involving music, discussions and food. In most of the towns along the way, the marchers received housing in churches, schools and farms, sleeping only a few nights under the open skies. They were also joined by supporters for portions of their walk.

For more info on the march please see

More info on past actions:

10 articles have already appeared in Norwegian newspapers about their protest, a politician from the Socialist party has demanded that the Ministry of Labor and Social Inclusion deliberate what has happened to those who have been deported by force since last year's hunger strike - about 150 refugees in all. The support from various organizations is increasing.

There is so much more to say about this incredible march - the critical repurposing of a national-christian trope to poetically restage the relationship of citizen to refugee, of host to pilgrim, and to transform the penance-seeker into protester. But this email is a request for urgent support, so I shall get right to it.

Upon their arrival in Olso, the marchers occupied the square in front of Parliament - handing in a letter to demand answers on Norway's deportation policies, especially with the new UN report and regulations dealing specifically with assessing asylum claims by Afghan refugees. The protest is intended to force into public debate whether or not Norway should follow the UN instructions for forcibly deporting Afghan refugees, which would immediately impact the roughly 400 Afghans in Norway currently. As a reminder: the Norwegian government, Afghan government and UNHCR have recently signed an agreement to send back Afghanistan refugees by 26 of May 2006 - those not departing willingly would be forcefully deported by direct flight.

On 2am on Wednesday June 21st Police arrested the entire group - half were subsequently released, while half were sent to Trandum Deportation prison. Thursday and Friday arrests and deportation orders were hastily pushed through the courts, and Saturday deportation tickets were ordered for 15 of the 21 arrested. Among those arrested was also an Afghan refugee who was not part of the Asylum March. (:: Fotos from the arrestation)

All week-end, a team of activists worked with the refugees, protesting at the airport, putting pressure on the ministry and demanding action from the larger supporters of the march.

As the prisoners were about to board the plane, a last-minute decision to postpone was handed down. Only one of the detainees was deported - the protester who did not participate in the march. The rest of the refugees were returned to Trandum - and although this temporary and partial victory is important, the situation is far from resolved.

Please consider supporting this small group in their struggle -- it may be especially useful for other groups active in refugee rights, social justice, human rights, anti-war, anticapitalist or anticacist campaigns to draft letters of support, to help connect this local struggle with similar efforts elsewhere, to provide some media visibility.


1. Put pressure on representatives of the Norwegian Government. In the US, the contact information of the Norwegian embassy is listed at the end of this message, along with a sample letter.

2. Talk about it !!!!! Please help spread the word about this action. Media support could be immensely helpful at this point, helping to maintain pressure for a solution to the situation of the detainees and for more long-term debate on refugee rights.

3. Sign the Petition!!!!!!!!, which you will find on the website

4. Do an action in solidarity with this group - a small protest, a march, draft a public declaration, hold a teach-in; include this campaign in your ongoing activities: conferences, seminars and so forth.

5. Those of you close enough, or with close ties to Oslo, please contact the group directly to see how you may be able to help

E-mail: kontakt (at)
Phone: Zahir Athari - 417 48 088

For more information please see:

Also, a speech by Zahir Athari, one of the participants in the march and an outspoken refugee and activist leader:

Example Letter of Protest

The Royal Norwegian Embassy
2720 34th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008

His Excellency Knut Vollebaek - Ambassador
Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Mr. Rune Resaland
Minister - Deputy Chief of Mission
Ms. Aud Kolberg - Minister Counselor for Political Affairs
Telephone number: (202) 333-6000?
Fax number: (202) 337-0870?
E-mail: emb.washington (at)

Dear Representatives of the Norwegian Government

We are writing to inquire about the status of the 21 Afghan refugees currently detained by the Norwegian Authorities at the Trandum Prison. We are concerned about the conditions of their detention, and about the possibility of deportation. In view of the commitments of the Norwegian State and the international community, and the obligation of our states to acknowledge the suffering and devastation we are complicitous in creating, we demand the following:

1. The immediate release of all detained refugees in Norway
2. An immediate stop to all forced deportations of Afghan refugees
3. The discussion, in the highest forums of legislative power in the state, about refugee rights and the responsibility of the state for protecting people displaced by wars of occupation - revoking the recently signed agreement between the Norwegian Government, the government of Afghanistan and the UNHCR
4. An investigation into the living and working conditions of Afghan refugees currently in Norway; immediate attention to the deep social problems that are the direct result of their exploitation as cheap labor

Zahir Athari of the Asylum Marchers said in his speech:
"The reality is that Afghan refugees are the scapegoat for a defeated war policy. It was claimed by the USA and partners that we will win the war and put every things in order in Afghanistan, now since after 5years not only nothing came to the order but also they are losing completely. The Norwegian government has to advertise Afghanistan as being safer and more democratic than Norway, and start to deport afghan refugees back, as quick as possible, to prove the claims and to justify its participation in that war on the Norwegian public view."

We believe this to be an accurate analysis of the situation internationally; the responsibilities both our states bear for the crisis that has left so may Afghans displaced must be assumed openly, not suppressed!!!