SWEDEN: Edelstam prize brings honor and award to Iran woman prisoner

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Iranian student activist Mrs. Bahareh Hedayat
Incarcerated 'prisoner of conscience,' student activist and women's rights advocate in Iran, Mrs. Bahareh Hedayat is the new chosen Laureate for the first year of the new prestigious Edelstam Prize in Sweden. Image: Harald Edelstam Foundation

(WNN) STOCKHOLM: The Harald Edelstam Foundation, based in Sweden, has just chosen today Iranian human rights activist Mrs. Bahareh Hedayat to become the first Laureate who will receive a prize from Sweden’s first year of the prestigious Edelstam Prize. 

Taking a leading role in the student movement and the women’s rights movement in Iran, Hedayat, who is considered a woman hero in Iran, has also been an active critic of Iran’s President Ahmadinejad. Facing severe police brutality she has been arrested repeatedly for what many has been called “her courageous actions.”

Because of her work with activism Bahareh will be unable to accept her prize in Sweden though. She is currently being held as a ‘prisoner of conscience’ in Evin Prison in Iran’s capital city of Tehran.

“Bahareh has shown a great amount of civic courage. It is tragic that she will not be able to come and receive the prize in Stockholm on the 16th of April, due to the regime’s punishment for her convictions,” says Ms. Caroline Edelstam, Chair of the international Edelstam Prize Jury and Vice President of the Harald Edelstam Foundation. “It is a great tragedy that a young, vital and freedom-loving woman shall pay such a high price for her courageous actions and in defending others and the civil rights. Battery, torture and prostration is part of her everyday-life in the Evin Prison,” continued Edelstam.

The Edelstam Prize, an award that has been created to be given to those who have shown “exceptional courage” for outstanding contributions in standing up for one’s beliefs in the “defense of human rights” will be awarded during a ceremony in the House of Nobility in Stockholm on the 16th of April, 2012. The Prize is named after, and awarded in the memory of Swedish diplomat and Ambassador Harald Edelstam, also known as the ‘Black Pimpernel,’ who distinguished himself as a diplomat by his professional competence, bravery and civic courage in the fight for human rights.

“Mrs. Bahareh Hedayat has through her outstanding courage and commitment to justice actively worked against the violation of human rights in Iran. Despite of serious warnings and threats from the regime’s security and intelligence forces, she has repeatedly risked her own life and freedom when defending human rights. She has been arrested upon several occasions, and is imprisoned right now for these reasons,” said a formal statement just released from the Jury for the Edelstam Prize. “The Harald Edelstam Foundation considers her a prisoner of conscience, and in consequence respectfully asks the authorities of the Republic of Iran to set her free,” continued the Jury.

Considered a strong youth leader in Iran, Mrs. Bahareh Hedayat was born in 1981. As Secretary of the Women’s Commission of the Student Union in Tehran she issued a call to action as she participated with others in a peaceful protest against Iran’s discriminatory laws against women. As a result of her actions she was arrested for the first time.

But this didn’t stop her. She continued to report cases in the abuse of human rights affecting universities in Iran. Hedayat helped to create reports, among other things, revealing details in cases of rape of female university students. She was also actively involved in the investigation and assisted students with legal advocacy who were arrested or expelled from universities and denied the right to continue their education. Sanctions that came to them only because of a student’s civil rights and students’ rights activism.

Despite warnings and threats from security and intelligence forces and actual detention Hedayat continued her activism and organized several meetings and seminars on various subjects on human rights. She took part in a sit-in in front of the Amir Kabir University to protest the unwarranted detention and torture of students and also participated in a peaceful assembly with the family of prisoners of conscience in front of Evin prison.

In 2009 Bahareh was sentenced to nine and half years of punitive imprisonment. She was charged with “propaganda against the regime” for her interviews with the foreign press; for insulting the Leader (a sentence calledVali Faqih); for insulting the President; for acting against national security by participating in social and public gathering and for helping organize group protest. For extended periods of time she has been deprived of her basic rights, such as the right to have a lawyer, telephone conversations with her family, or meeting with visitors.

“…I would like to stress that Bahareh has been under extreme pressure from the [Iranian] security forces as well as the judiciary to petition for forgiveness and amnesty by expressing regret about her past activities and positions. She has bravely refused to accept this precondition for her release. However, she has from the beginning requested the case to be considered by an unbiased court,” says Caroline Edelstam.

The Edelstam Prize can be given to any individual person or a person who serves in government, international or national organizations. Those chosen for the Prize must have shown outstanding capabilities in analyzing and handling complex situations and in finding ways, even unconventional and creative ones, to defend human rights. Civic courage is a central point in the selection of a candidate.

International jurors for the first year of the Prize include an impressive global list of people including Caroline Edelstam – Harald Edelstam’s granddaughter and co-founder of the Harald Edelstam Foundation, Justice Louise Arbour – former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Judge Shirin Ebadi – 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Dr. Pascoal Mocumbi – former Prime Minister of Mozambique and Professor Philip Alston –  UN’s current Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions.

Former president of Chile (from 2000 to 2006) Ricardo Lagos is also on the jury as well as Judge Baltasar Garzón, who served on Spain’s central criminal court and as a ‘steady fighter’ for human rights. In 1998 Baltasar Garzón became famous for his work to help indict Chile’s dictator General Augusto Pinochet. He also worked to bring attention to the case in the alleged deaths and torture of 114,000 opponents of by the General Francisco Franco regime which lasted in Spain from 1936 to 1975.

Bahareh has suffered from gallstone trouble while in prison. Recently doctors have confirmed she has kidney stone, however she has not been given permission to be treated while she is still in prison.


For more information on the new Edelstam Prize in Sweden link HERE


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