LOS ANGELES, United States – After having lived a peaceful and successful life in America for over two decades, Ibrahim Parlak, a Kurdish immigrant, is now at imminent risk of deportation to Turkey where his safety will be endangered.
Parlak, owner of the popular Gulistan Café in Michigan, has lived in the U.S. since 1991 and has become a pillar for his community.
He was arrested and tortured in Turkey. A federal appeals court filing in the U.S. from 2007 says, "The Turkish gendarme shocked him with electrodes, beat his genitalia, hung him by the arms, blindfolded him and deprived him of sleep, food, water and clothing, and anally raped him with a truncheon over the course of almost a month.”
Parlak’s asylum case was accepted in 1991. However, in 1997, six years after Parlak’s entry, the U.S. designated the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) a terrorist group. As a result, Homeland Security has decided Parlak’s ties to the outlawed group makes him a threat to America.
“When I applied for citizenship, they [U.S.] didn’t know anything about Kurds. Although Kurds have not done anything against the States, political ties with Turkey meant the U.S. doomed the Kurdish movement, and everything has gone downhill from 1997 on for me,” Parlak told K24 in a phone interview.
In 2004, he was placed in Calhoun County Jail to be deported, but the community rose to his defense. His neighbors and friends launched a successful campaign, built a website, sold T-shirts and told everyone that Ibrahim is not a threat to anyone.
Parlak also has the support of some American politicians and some U.S. media outlets have covered his case extensively. The New Yorker calls this a wasteful case and Democracy Now says deporting him to Turkey would be “an act of terror.”
But on Dec 24, 2015, Parlak’s deferral expired. Despite Christmas holidays, at the eve of the deportation, hundreds of people showed up before the Gulistan cafe and held a candle vigil. Citizens’ support forced the authorities to issue another 90 days deferral.
“They can throw me in the fire. That’s not the issue. I am no better than the 12 kids killed in Van, the three women assassinated in Turkey, than all the Kurds suffering at the moment under siege and are not allowed to even bury their dead. The issue is what U.S. stands for in the world,” Parlak told K24.
Turkey says it is fighting a war on terror by enforcing curfews on several Kurdish cities. Rights groups in Turkey call for peace negotiations and declare that 1.3 million people have been impacted by the curfews and more than 150 civilians have been killed.
“Kurds are the only force effectively combatting IS. Our women fighters are the suicide bombers’ biggest fear, the only reason they may not get their '72 virgins.' Why is the U.S. silent then when Kurds suffer? The country that says it’s bringing peace and democracy to the world is working against the only people fighting terrorism.”
Parlak is now on “deferred action,” which means he can be grabbed and deported at any time.