(CN) – The 11th Circuit likened its position in the asylum case of an Iranian man who converted to Christianity to a sailor trying to navigate between the mythological Greek sea monsters Scylla and Charybdis.
“A denial of review will return the petitioner to the theocratic regime in Iran, but an erroneous grant of review could establish a precedent that rewards less than genuine fears of persecution based on religious conversion,” Judge Pryor wrote.
In Greek mythology, Scylla and Charybdis lurked on opposite sides of the Strait of Messina, between Sicily and Calabria, Italy. Avoiding one meant passing too close to the other.
Iranian native Hani Kazemzadeh sought asylum in the United States after his conversion from Islam to Christianity, claiming apostasy is punishable by death in Iran.
The immigration judge refused to grant him asylum, saying the petitioner failed to establish a well-founded fear of political or religious persecution. The judge said Kazemzadeh couldn’t prove that anyone in Iran was even aware of his religious conversion. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed.
The Atlanta-based federal appeals court, however, vacated part of that decision.
“The right course between the threats of Scylla and Charybdis is for the Board to reconsider the record, which contains important evidence that the Board failed to mention,” Judge Pryor concluded.
The court said the evidence backed the board’s decision on his bid for political asylum, but the board failed to “give reasoned consideration” to the evidence supporting religious asylum.
“There is evidence that the law against apostasy is not often enforced in Iran,” Pryor wrote, “but neither the Board nor the Immigration Judge considered Kazemzadeh’s testimony that Iranians who convert from Islam to Christianity avoid punishment by instead suffering persecution by practicing underground.”
The court denied Kazemzadeh’s political asylum petition, but vacated and remanded the denial of his bid for religious asylum.