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Once a safe haven, Iranians in Turkey say civil liberties are at risk

Many Iranians feel that space for culture, freedom of speech and a secular lifestyle is steadily shrinking in Turkey, which until now has been serving as a safe haven for many Iranians to live freely. 
Turkish pop star Gulsen performs during a concert in Aydin, Turkey, on March 27, 2022.

Imagine being at a house party. The guests are dancing, drinking, flirting and playing games just like anywhere else in the world. Suddenly the lights go out, and the host yells at the women to put on their hijabs and orders the crowd to separate by gender. The party has been visited by Iran’s morality police. Cue the bribes and call it a night — business as usual. Such is the reality of leisure time for Iranians. These enforcements by the morality police have fueled the ongoing Iranian protests in the wake of Mahsa Amini’s death.

To gain reprieve from the constraints imposed on everyday life in the Islamic Republic, wealthy Iranians have for years been vacationing in neighboring Turkey. The tendency has been spurred on by Turkey being one of the only affordable destinations amidst a crashing Iranian economy. Further, the weakness of the Iranian passport only grants visa-free entry to a few countries.

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