Iranian Refugee Musician Faces Deportation After 13 Years in Bulgaria

Mehran Davari, a rock musician who fears persecution if he is deported because of his involvement in anti-regime protests in Iran, is being held at a detention centre in the Bulgarian capital.

A photo of Mehran Davari from the social media page calling for his release. Photo: Freemehrandavari/Facebook.


Activists are campaigning for the release of Iranian refugee and rock musician Mehran ‘Stefan’ Davari, who was detained last week after living in Bulgaria for the last 13 years.

Davari was taken by the authorities to the Sofia Busmantsi Detention Centre on January 11 and activists fear this will lead to his deportation to Iran.

Davari fears persecution if deported because of his involvement in anti-regime protests in 2009 after the election victory of conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, when he was detained for three weeks. The protests were marred by numerous cases of police violence against demonstrators.

Lawyer Diana Radoslavova, a founder of the Voice in Bulgaria Centre for Legal Aid, told BIRN that during his 13 years in Bulgaria, her client Davari has been repeatedly denied refugee protection status.

“We contacted the ombudsman of Bulgaria on Monday and have just filed our tenth request for asylum to the State Agency for Refugees, noting the special circumstances to be taken into consideration. We hope that there will be an affirmative reaction from UNHCR [UN Refugee Agency] Bulgaria,” she said.

She expressed concern about Davari being held at the detention.

“For a certain amount of time, we had no contact with him but he now has a landline and is allowed to have visitors on Tuesdays and Wednesdays – 20 people have come to show support already,” added Radoslavova.

In an interview with Nova TV on January 14, Radoslavova said that right after Davari’s detention, his “exact words were that that if he sets foot in Iran, he will be dead – that is, unless he commits suicide before that”.

Friends of Davari have told Bulgarian media that he is completely settled in Bulgaria, has become fluent in the language and has been using a Bulgarian name, Stefan.

Davari is the bass player for Sofia-based hard rock band Bullshit, who are currently preparing their debut album, as well as directing music videos.

Over 4,600 people have signed an online petition for Davari’s release and have been spreading the hashtag #freemehrandavari on social media.

This would not be that first time Bulgaria has made steps towards a contested extradition.

In 2022, the Bulgarian authorities were criticised for initiating the handover of Russian citizen Alexey Alchin, who participated in pro-Ukraine protests in the city of Varna. Alchin was eventually released.

In 2016, Bulgaria denied asylum to Turkish citizen Abdullah Buyuk, a supporter of Fethullah Gulen, an exiled cleric who is accused by Ankara of leading a terrorist organisation.

Source: BalkanInsight