Human Rights Award Given to “Mothers of Khavaran”
Long-Awaited Recognition for Families of Political Prisoners Executed in 1980s
The Mothers of Khavaran, a grassroots organization dedicated to spreading awareness of and seeking justice for the victims of the mass executions of political prisoners carried out by the Islamic Republic in the 1980’s, was awarded the 2014 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights, given annually by the South Korean May 18 Memorial Foundation.
“I will take the award to the mothers who have been waiting for years for the world to hear their voice, even though many of them did not live long enough to see this day,” said Parvaneh Milani, one of the Mothers of Khavaran who was in South Korea to receive the prize.
Speaking to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Milani said she was very happy that the Mothers had finally received recognition. “We had been waiting for three decades for the world to hear our voice,” she added.
Milani and Masoumeh Daneshmand traveled to South Korea to receive the Gwangju Prize on behalf of the Mothers. Milani, 72, lost her brother, Rahim Milani, to the secret executions. She has decided not to return to Iran. Daneshmand is the mother of Bijan Bazargan, another political prisoner who was among the victims of the 1988 mass executions.
Mansoureh Behkish, a member of the Mothers of Khavaran inside Iran, told the Campaign that the group has been seeking answers about the secret execution of their loved ones, especially the exact place of their burial.
“I even wrote a letter of protest to President Rouhani and asked him 12 questions laying out the minimum demands of the families. I asked him to unlock the gate to Khavaran Cemetery and to end the harassment and abuse of the families. But nothing has changed and none of the authorities in charge have given any response,” Behkish said.
The Mothers of Khavaran have been attempting to go to the Khavaran Cemetery in Tehran, where many of the executed prisoners are buried in mass graves, every last Friday of the Iranian year in order to keep the memory of their loved ones alive, but the Islamic Republic, as a matter of policy, has prevented victims’ families from installing headstones or even entering the cemetery for group ceremonies marking the anniversary of the mass executions.
The Gwangju Prize for Human Rights is given to recognize “individuals, groups or institutions in Korea and abroad that have contributed in promoting and advancing human rights, democracy and peace through their work.” The Mothers of Khavaran will share the award with Bangladeshi human rights defender Adilur Rahman Khan.