How a Group of Strangers Stopped One Man From Being Deported

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Common Dreams

How a Group of Strangers Stopped One Man From Being Deported

Airplane passengers staged an unusual direct action to prevent a refugee from being forcibly removed from Sweden

(Photo: Wikimedia / Creative Commons / russavia)

(Photo: Wikimedia / Creative Commons / russavia)

When Swedish authorities on Thursday attempted to deport refugee and father of two Ghader Ghalamere by airplane to Iran, something extraordinary happened.

The other passengers on the flight staged a peaceful protest to stop the airplane from taking off.

Ghalamere, who is Kurdish, left his birthplace of Iran years ago due to what he says is persecution—including threat of torture and execution—for his past political activities. He relocated to Sweden, where he was living with his wife Fatemeh, who is a Swedish resident, and their two young children.

After Ghalamere's failed attempts to efforts to attain residency status for himself, Swedish authorities attempted to deport him to Iran on Thursday, via an airplane leaving Östersund, with Stockholm as its first stop, The Independent reports.

The day of his scheduled deportation, Ghalamere showed up to the airport lounge with family and friends who passed out leaflets about his situation and appealed to fellow passengers for help.

Once on the plane, one of Ghalamere's supporters stood up and urged others to stop the plane from taking off by refusing to fasten their seat-belts, Radio Sweden reports.

Many passengers took heed. "The only thing we could do was to protest in a dignified manner," Malin Björk, the Left Party's top candidate for the upcoming EU elections, told Radio Sweden.

The protest effectively prevented the pilots from taking off from the runway.

The ordeal is not over for Ghalamere and his family. He was taken to a detention center in central Sweden and immigration authorities have refused to change orders for his deportation. Ghalamere has gone on hunger strike, and supporters have launched a campaign and protests calling for his freedom and reunification with his family.

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