UK Court of Appeal on personal history of conversion as part of religious belief

Thursday, October 12, 2017

On 12 October 2017, the England and Wales Court of Appeal ruled on case AS (Iran) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department regarding an Iranian woman who feared persecution in Iran on the basis of her conversion to Christianity and her illegal exit from that country. The applicant had unsuccessfully appealed against the rejection of her asylum application before the First-tier and Upper Tribunals.

Firstly, the Court of Appeal found that the First-tier tribunal did not commit a material error by finding that the applicant was not at risk of persecution in Iran for being a member of a particular social group (that of Iranian women victims of domestic violence). While recalling that the Secretary of State acknowledged that women in Iran do form a particular social group, the Court of Appeal concluded that the applicant would not return to live with her husband and would be able to position herself in independent life, thus not risking persecution.

Secondly, the Court reaffirmed that earlier illegal exit is insufficient in itself to give rise to a risk of persecution on return (SB (Iran) CG [2009] UKAIT 00053). The applicant was not identifiable or identified by the Iranian regime and there was no evidence she would be questioned directly about her political activity.

Thirdly, the Court of Appeal did not agree with the appellant that her conversion was an immutable and fundamental part of her religious identity, which she should not be required to change or renounce in order to avoid persecution (in line with HJ (Iran)). The applicant had not previously and would not seek to proselytise her religion and had regarded her religion as a private matter – thus, active evangelism could not be regarded as an important element of her religious faith. Therefore, the Court of Appeal concluded that the applicant would not be persecuted on the ground of her religion upon return.

This item was reproduced with the permission of ECRE from the weekly ELENA legal update supported by the Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Funding Programme and distributed by email. The purpose of these updates is to inform asylum lawyers and legal organizations supporting asylum seekers and refugees of recent developments in the field of asylum law. Please note that the information provided is taken from publicly available information on the internet. Every reasonable effort is made to make the content accurate and up to date at the time each item is published but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by ECRE, the IRC or its partners.



Membership of a particular social group
Persecution (acts of)
Persecution Grounds/Reasons