Birthday campaign for release of Iranian student leader

A Facebook page calls for Bahareh Hedayat's release and collects messages of support © Amnesty International

By Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Iran researcher

I was cheered to see Amnesty International members joining others across the world to wish Iranian Prisoner of Conscience Behareh Hedayat Happy Birthday in an effort to secure her release.  A Facebook page has been set up to collect messages and videos of support.

Behareh Hedayat is celebrating her 30th birthday today – her third behind bars – in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran where she is serving a nine and a half year prison term in connection with her activities as a student leader.

I sometimes wonder how effective such a campaign might be, in the face of the ongoing ruthless repression by the Iranian authorities.  How could someone held in such restrictive circumstances – she is currently banned from family visits – even find out that people around the world are singing her “Happy Birthday” and calling for her release?

But as ex-prisoner of conscience Maziar Bahari reminded us after his release, “the prisoner’s worst nightmare is the thought of being forgotten.”  These messages of support will reach her family and friends and eventually will get to her.  Other families have told us how much such expressions of support have meant to them in the long nights when they sit at home with an empty chair beside them.

Behareh Hedayat is the Chair of the Women’s Committee of the Office for the Consolidation of Unity (OCU) – a national student body which has been active in calling for political reform and opposing human rights violations in recent years and also sits on its Central Committee.  She is also a women’s rights activist, and member of the One Million Signature Campaign (also known as the Campaign for Equality), a grassroots movement aimed at collecting signatures to a petition demanding an end to discrimination against women in Iranian law.

Behareh Hedayat was arrested on 31 December 2009, shortly after mass arrests following anti-government protests on the religious festival of Ashoura.  Before this, in early December 2009, her recorded video speech for a conference in the Netherlands entitled “International solidarity with Iranian students’ movement on the occasion of Iran’s National Student’s Day” had been widely circulated on the internet.

She was charged with several “offences”, including “interviews with foreign media”, “insulting the Leader”, “insulting the President”, “disrupting public order through participating in illegal gatherings”, “illegal entrance and destruction of Amir Kabir University’s main entrance during [opposition leader] Mehdi Karroubi’s visit to the university”.

In May 2010 Behareh Hedayat was sentenced to six months in prison for “insulting the President”, two years for “insulting the Leader” and five years for “acting against national security”. A two-year suspended prison term previously imposed for her participation in a June 2006 demonstration calling for an end to discrimination against women in law was also implemented.  Her sentence was upheld in July 2010.

“We have been pressured and pummelled but have neither broken nor bent. We have stood firmly, but with anxious and broken hearts, we have witnessed the plunder and despotic destruction of a flower pot for which our predecessors and we have toiled and laboured to see its growth and flourishing.” Behareh Hedayat, December 2010

I have been deeply moved by Behareh’s refusal to be cowed by her time in prison, despite being denied family visits and even telephone calls for long periods.  In December 2010, her message (from which the above quote is taken) from prison to Iranian students for the 2010 anniversary of Iran’s National Students’ Day, was published.  Since then, she has been charged afresh with “propaganda against the system” and “acting against national security by conspiring against the system” in relation to her statement from prison.

Amnesty International was founded 50 years ago to remember the forgotten prisoners. Activists around the world are not prepared to forget Behareh Hedayat – who reminds us all of the many other prisoners of conscience still detained in Iran.  Many Happy Returns of the Day, Behareh.  I hope next year sees you filling the empty chair at home, where you should be.

Posted in Human Rights Defenders and Activists, International Organizations, Iran | 97 Comments

  1. Adela Ruiz says:

    Happy birthday, dear Behareh! I wish you the freedom

  2. Lelio Brun says:

    Joyeux anniversaire Behareh. J’espère que vous serez libérée bientôt.

  3. marin sandrine says:

    Happy Birthday dearest Behareh Hedaya! I wish you to be free now !

  4. le goareguer Elisabeth says:

    Bon anniversaire Behared! Bon courage.

  5. Yvonne SEGAUD-MORIZOT says:

    Happy birthday, Behareh! Keep hope, many people are thinkng of you and proud of you!

  6. nilsson says:

    bon anniversaire behareh

  7. 1 says:

    Joyeux anniversaire Behared Hedaya! J’espère énormément que tous tes désirs soient exaucés pour cette belle trentième année de ta vie!

  8. Martine WILLOCQ says:

    Happy birthday Behareh

  9. creighton says:

    Many thoughts and loving support from france, you are in our hearts

  10. mohamed says:

    happy birthday, bon courage et pour un mondo mejor

  11. Maude says:

    Joyeux anniversaire & courage pour la suite !

  12. Arnal Philippe says:

    freedom and peace in your mind for your birthday, dear Behared

  13. Marie-Claire says:

    Happy birthday, gardes courage et espoir

  14. Bernadette says:

    bon anniversaire et bientôt libre? Je l’espère

  15. 1 says:

    bon anniversire Behareh

  16. 1 says:

    we shall overcome

  17. 4 says:

    Ils ont plus peur des femmes, que elles de eux ….

  18. Térésa MASIA PERALES says:

    Many thoughts, peace, love and light from France. FREEDOM NOW !

  19. Isabelle Dumont says:

    Bon anniversaire et courage. Le temps et la patience seront les vainqueurs

  20. Betencourt Éric says:

    Happy birthday and sincere wishes for a quick liberation.

  21. Véronique Galand says:

    So many people around the world think about you every day and hope you will be free soon. Happy Birthday Bahareh!

  22. vincent soubeyran in luxembourg says:

    happy dob benareh!.. keep the faith..

  23. PDD says:

    le meilleur anniversaire “possible”…

  24. heselmans jo says:

    Je vous souhaite un anniversaire à l’air libre, toutes les femmes du monde également

  25. philippe says:

    An happy Birthday to you, We send you a lot of energy and perseverance!

  26. 1 says:

    force et courage dans ce combat a l’egalité homme / femme sinon l’homme serait un animal sans femme_BA

  27. Joyeux anniversaire-Happy birthday Behareh. j`espere que vous serez bientot libre says:

    Joyeux anniversaire Behareh

  28. marianne says:

    happy birthday Miss Behareh Hedayat!! Keep brave and hope.. We think of you.

  29. Christian De Donder says:

    Happy birthday hope you be released soon Courage you are not alone

  30. mado says:

    Joyeux anniversaire,Behareh garde l’espoir pour un monde meilleur

  31. Maryse Ferland says:

    Joyeux anniversaire Behared Hedaya. Bon courage, femme du monde!

  32. Nanou Watthée says:

    Bon anniversaire et bon courage. Je pense à toi.

  33. Scauflaire Noël et Marie Henriette Essel says:

    Nous vous souhaitons un heureux anniversaire. Nous pensons beaucoup à vous.

  34. Sylvie says:

    Behareh All my best wishes and still keep hope in future

  35. Talmas Christine says:

    Happy Birthday Belareh, I hope you will get free very soon

  36. Jean-Luc BUGE says:

    From France. For a world of freedom and liberty.

  37. MARJO says:

    Bonne fête, nous pensons à toi, tiens le coup! Happy birthay!

  38. Eglantine says:

    Bon anniversaire et courage, j’espère que vous serez bientôt libéré

  39. Nicole Raulier says:

    Happy Birthday Behared, we hope you will be free soon, we are proud of you. Courage we are thinking of you.

  40. elisabeth poulain says:

    bon anniversaire ,que c’est beau la liberté !courage,nous sommes avec toi

  41. Jean-Michel Dayse says:

    Dear Behareh, I wish a birthday as happy as it can be on these difficult days you’re going through! I send you all my support and I hope you’ll walk free pretty soon… Freedom and peace for you and Iran.

  42. Maryse Leloup says:

    So strange to wish you happy birthday in such a situation !… But yes, to wish you “hold on !” & courage for looking for justice and equality ! You ‘ll find the path that leads from dream to reality ! Thinking of you.

  43. emmanuelle says:

    un anniversaire dans la liberté

  44. NURIA MORATO says:

    Bon anniversaire, Behareh!!! On pense à toi et à toute la jeunesse iranienne!!!!

  45. edith says:

    bon anniversaire Behared. Courage et espoir. J’espère que vous serez libre très vite.

  46. ELBAZ Pascale says:

    Bon anniversaire et bon courage Behareh

  47. Henin says:

    Pour votre anniversaire nous pensons fort à toi! Courage, on ne vous oublie pas

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