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Iranian protesters' hunger strike over asylum bid

By Atika Shubert, CNN
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Asylum seekers sew lips shut
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Six men began hunger strike two weeks ago after the British government refused their appeals for asylum
  • Kevyan Bahari and Mahyar Meyari have sewn their lips together with fishing line
  • Group claim their lives would be in danger if they were returned to Iran.

London (CNN) -- Outside the UK Border Agency office in Croydon, South London, several Iranian protesters have set up a tent.

For more than 2 weeks, Keyvan Bahari, Mahyar Meyari and 4 other Iranian asylum seekers have been on a hunger strike after the British government rejected their applications for asylum.

But Bahari and Meyari have taken their protest one step further: Sewing their lips shut with fishing line.

Sitting by his tent and struggling to speak through his sewn lips, Meyari explains why he wants to stay in Britain.

"If I could stay anywhere, the best would be my own country. But I don't have anywhere to stay, he says. My message to everyone who hears this is to say help us, because we want to live."

Both Bahari and Meyari say they got caught up in the 2009 elections protests in Tehran.

"Like everyone else we were demonstrating for justice, we wanted to know where our vote went," Bahari says.

"There was a demonstration and people set fire to the bank. Because they set the bank on fire, police came and wanted to shoot people.

You don't know what it's like to be tortured but I know what will happen to me if I go back to Iran.
--Kevyan Bahari
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"Me, my brother and some other guys, went and took the weapons from the police, and flipped the police cars. Then one of the protesters set a police car on fire.

"From that incident, we were identified, our pictures taken and we were targeted. We were forced to flee."

Bahari is a former wrestling champion in Iran and he says he put up a fight during his arrest. He pulled up his shirt to show the scars he says he received from a police beating.

Meyari says he was just 16 when he was arrested.

"They took me to a place that I didn't know, my eyes were closed, they raped me, beat me and tortured me for a week. I had bruises all over my body. The second time I was arrested, I escaped."

He adds: "I think they would have killed me by now, if I was in Iran."

Both say they crossed the border from Iran into Turkey then travelled across Europe for weeks before entering the UK.

Meyari says he spent 17 days hidden inside a truck that crossed the English channel.

Bahari estimates that they paid agents almost 10,000 dollars to be smuggled across.

CNN has no way of verifying their accounts.

The Iranian Embassy has refused to comment and the UK Border Agency released this statement: "These individuals were given every opportunity to make their representations to us as well as a right to appeal the decision to the courts.

"They all had access to free legal advice as well as a designated UK Border Agency caseowner who considered their case on its individual merits."

Meyari is still appealing his decision. But Bahari has exhausted his legal options and is now waiting for the detention letter that will send him back to Iran.

"This is my message to the government: Okay, I'm ready. Send me back to Iran but not the others and see what happens to me."

Bahari says: "You don't know what it's like to be tortured but I know what will happen to me if I go back to Iran."