Justice for Iran, 18 May 2014 | Massoumeh Daneshmand (Mother Bazargan) and Parveneh Milani attended the award ceremony in Gwangju, South Korea, today. While accepting the award they announced: “Majority among us are aged and frail. Others are long gone from this world. But one truth remains. To the last breath we will seek justice in honour of those who rest in peace at Khavaran. To the last breath we will exert every effort to build a society where every child, woman or man is free to believe, to live and to progress.”
The 2014 panel of judges selected Mothers of Khavaran as a symbol of survivors and family members of political prisoners executed for their pursuit of justice and truth. As well, they recognised co-laureate, Adilur Rahman Khan, a constitutional rights defender in Bangladesh.
Video of the award ceremony in Gwangju can be viewed here.
During the ceremony they described the plight of political prisoners and their families during the 1980’s and said: “Throughout these decades, innumerable survivors have been treated unjustly for ideas and ideals espoused by their late offsprings, efforts to find the truth about their fate, or marking their anniversaries. Some were expelled from employment. Others were denied the right to travel, while majority face a perpetual cycle of socioeconomic deprivation designed to belittle and dehumanise these wronged ones.”
While expressing their delight at receiving the award as a means of “calling for justice” on a “greater scale” throughout the planet, they added: “We seek no revenge. We oppose retaliation. Even against those whose hands are covered in the blood of our children. What we do seek is justice. What we do demand is a transparent and fair court that will openly try those involved in this crime against humanity, so that Iranians stand together and commit to the call of ‘never again’!”
They emphasised that while “Khavaran is not the only grave site where dissidents are buried in an unceremonious manner,” continued to say “in other corners of Tehran, in different provinces, there are similar cemeteries, unmarked and perhaps as yet unknown. Where our loved ones are buried without a word to us or their families, all the while, the government harassing the survivors for asking why and how they were killed. All of them are a part of us. We are part of them. Together, we are Mothers of Khavaran.”
Watch the award ceremony here.
Another part of the message read by Mother Bazargan and Parvaneh Milani states: “Time and time again we have sought response from our government authorities, but there has been none. No one has dared to shed a light on why and how they were taken as individual citizens or as comrades sharing an ideology. We then pleaded to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran. Despite our repeated calls, nothing has come to pass. We now expect human rights defenders throughout the globe and at the United Nations, including Dr. Shaheed, to recognise our right to learn of their fate and commemorate their anniversary free of persecution, and do their utmost to put an end to denial and violation of our rights.”
The May 18 Memorial Foundation was established in 1994 to honour the memory of the victims of 18 May 1980 democratic uprising, the starting point of democratisation in South Korea. In 2011 the Foundation established the annual Gwangju Prize for Human Rights in order to promote “the spirit of the May 18 Democratic Uprising in which the people of Gwangju resisted against brutal military forces for the sake of democracy and human rights”. At least 154 individuals were killed, 4141 injured or arrested, and 74 went missing. During Chun Doo-hwan’s presidency, state media referred to the events as a communist uprising. By establishing a cemetery and allocating May 18 as the day to honour the victims of this episode since 2002 effort is made to address the loss suffered by survivors and family members.