UNHCR says ‘saddened’ by self-immolation of Iranian Kurdish asylum seeker

An Iranian Kurdish asylum seeker speaks to reporters before setting himself on fire in front of U.N. office in Erbil, May 18, 2021.

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — The U.N. Refugee Agency said on Thursday it was “saddened by the tragic incident” that occurred on Tuesday when an Iranian Kurdish asylum seeker set himself on fire.

The refugee, who was named as Behzad Mahmoudi, set himself on fire in front of the U.N. headquarters in Erbil as he and another asylum seeker held a protest demanding better living for Iranian Kurdish refugees in the Region.

Health officials said Mahmoudi was in “critical condition” with burns to 91 percent of his body.

“The UN medical team responded with first aid and transferred the asylum-seeker to hospital where he is now receiving medical treatment,” UNHCR said in a statement.

“UNHCR is following closely with the Department of Health and hospital administration regarding the condition of the asylum-seeker,” it added.

Earlier on Thursday, dozens of Iranian Kurdish refugees gathered outside the U.N. office in Erbil to show support for Mahmoudi and to call for security and the protection of their rights.

Many of the refugees live in camps in the Kurdistan Region and have a difficult time obtaining residency and stable work.

A protester told Esta Media Network that some of the refugees had been living in the Kurdistan Region for over 25 years, calling on the United Nations to send them to another country if it cannot help them in the Region.

“We aren’t employed. We aren’t respected. They give us a residency card for one year. If it is expired for one day, we will be fined,” he said. “Help poor people! There are people who don’t have any work. Employ your Kurdish brothers as you do so for the foreigners.”

The U.N. refugee agency said it “works in partnership with the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Federal Government in Iraq in providing registration and documentation to refugees and asylum seekers, in accordance with the International Humanitarian and Refugee legal standards”.

“UNHCR also provides direct assistance to vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers across Iraq including KRI regardless of nationality,” it added, referring to the Kurdistan Region.

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