All the debate about Naze Aghai, the Iranian Kurd who applied for asylum in Finland but did not get it, was quite interesting in the way it revealed the Finnish assumptions about refugees.
The assumptions seem to be that a) real refugees usually flee war, b) their life is always in danger, and c) everyone who life is in danger is a real refugee.
What a real refugee should be is a subject for a separate and rather long discussion. What a real refugee actually is, however, is defined by the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees: "A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.."
Note that there is nothing on war, or danger of death. It's about persecution, and the well-founded fear of being persecuted. (War was eventually added as an afterthought, but war is definitely not necessary to make a refugee.) Note also that there is a list of what a refugee can be persecuted for: "race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion". Note that membership in a paramilitary organization is not on the list.
I don't have any particular opinion of my own on whether Naze Aghai should be allowed to remain in the country. I trust UVI to make the decision, and it's fine with me, and if they change their mind it's fine too. They know the case better than me or anyone else who is talking about it. There might be some other reasons to let her stay: for example that she was persecuted as a Kurd, or that Finland signed some EU-document somewhere saying that you should admit everyone who might otherwise get death penalty somewhere.
All I am saying is that the reason that is cited in her story as described in Helsingin Sanomat - her membership in the guerrilla forces known as Peshmerga - is not a proper reason for the refugee status.
The whole idea of the concept of refugees is that they are people who are unjustly persecuted, which means persecuted for things that civilized countries don't usually persecute people for: race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. Paramilitary groups, on the other hand, tend to be justly persecuted. I am not saying that the Peshmerga are any worse than the Iranian government, just that being persecuted as a member of some guerrillas cannot be an automatic qualification for the refugee status.
We can of course make it so if we want, but do we really want the full membership of Sendero Luminoso at our doorstep, followed by the Balochistan Liberation Army?