Case History: Mansoureh Behkish
On 4 April 2010, Mansoureh Behkish was charged with “assembly and conspiring with the intent to harm national security” as well as “propaganda against the system” and sentenced by Branch 15 of the Central Islamic Revolutionary Court. On 10 June 2012, the Appeals Court combined two parts of her sentence, sentencing her to four years of imprisonment, including three years and six months suspended for a period of five years, meaning she would serve those 3.5 years in addition to any new sentence, if convicted on similar charges over the next five years. On 4 February 2013, following a summons from the authorities, Behkish presented herself at Evin prison to begin her sentence, but upon arrival she was told to go home by the prison officials. Mansoureh Behkish was a finalist for the 2013 Front Line Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk.
Mansoureh Behkish is a women’s rights activist. She is a vocal person amongst the Mothers of Khavaran (Iran) and an activist amongst the Mothers of Laleh Park (Iran). As a supporter of non-violent resistance and a HRD, Mansoureh Behkish has spent the past three decades empowering survivors and victims of human rights abuses. In particular, she seeks to help the mothers, sisters and wives of the thousands imprisoned or executed by the Islamic Republic authorities, to seek justice through legal and humanitarian channels. As a result of her work as a HRD, she herself has faced continuous harassment, confiscation of her passport and violation of her right to travel and three terms of imprisonment.
On 4 April 2012, human rights defender Ms Mansoureh Behkish was sentenced to four and a half years in prison; four years on charges of “assembly and conspiring with the intent to harm national security by establishing the Mourning Mothers group” and six months in prison on charges of “propaganda against the system”. Mansoureh Behkish is a member of Mothers for Peace, a group of Iranian women that campaigns for peace and stability in the region. Mansoureh Behkish was informed of the sentencing on 3 April by Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran. She is currently lodging an appeal against the sentencing before the Iranian Court of Appeal. With a travel ban imposed on her, she is prohibited from leaving Iran. On 12 June 2011, Mansoureh Behkish was arrested in the streets of Tehran by government security agents. She was later transferred to Evin prison as a 'special case' where she was detained for almost a month.
The Mourning Mothers is a group of women whose children have been killed, forcibly disappeared or detained by the Iranian authorities and their allies. Mansoureh Behkish is also a signatory of a letter sent to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, dated 30 October 2009 which highlighted the violations of the rights of political prisoners in Iran and called on the United Nations to re-establish the office of the Special Representative for Iran and to save the lives of prisoners sentenced to death in Iran. Mansoureh Behkish has been subjected to arbitrary detentions and interrogations in the past as a result of her human rights work. She was twice arrested in the past for her participation at meetings of the Mourning Mothers.
Front Line Defenders believes that the charges against Mansoureh Behkish are solely motivated by her legitimate and peaceful work as a woman human rights defender, and in particular her work with Mourning Mothers which seeks justice for those who have been killed, disappeared or detained by the Iranian authorities.
Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Iran to:
1. Immediately drop all charges against Mansoureh Behkish as it is believed that they are solely motivated by her legitimate and peaceful work as a woman human rights defender;
2. Lift the travel ban on Mansoureh Behkish as it is believed that this measure has been taken against her solely on account of her human work;
3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Iran are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.