Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) Nominates Iranian Women’s Group, the Mothers of Khavaran for the United Nations Human Rights Prize

The month of September marks one of the darkest periods in recent history when this time 25 years ago mass political executions were carried out by the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). On the 25th anniversary of this historical tragedy, WLUML has co-nominated the Mothers of Khavaran for the 2013 United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights. This grassroots group with its base in Iran is largely made up of women whose children, mostly political and ideological activists, were tortured and secretly executed on mass by IRI officials. 

The group gets its name from Khavaran cemetery, where multiple sources say bodies of the executed victims are buried in unmarked graves. Despite repeated destruction to gravesites of their loved ones, members and supporters of Mothers of Khavaran courageously gather at the cemetery throughout the year, especially on the first of September, to mourn the deaths of their loved ones. They arrange rocks and flowers on the gravesites to make up for the removed markings; a symbolic gesture of their unyielding will.

Iran experts recognize the Mothers of Khavaran as a pioneer group of women who throughout the years have defied the traditional role of the ‘grief-stricken mother’ and spearheaded a social movement for justice. Their simple pursuit has galvanized thousands of Iranians to learn about this dark chapter in their country’s history that the Islamic Republic’s regime has made great efforts to omit.

In the late 1980’s, Mothers of Khavaran attempted to contact the late Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights' Special Representative on Iran at the time, to inform him of the mass executions. When Mr. Galindo Pohl finally visited Iran, IRI authorities repeatedly denied members of the Mothers of Khavaran a chance to see or speak to him by violently attacking and threatening them outside the UN office in Tehran. To this day, neither Mr. Galindo Pohl nor any other UN official has followed up with the Mothers of Khavaran.

The extraordinary women in this group are forced to operate in a highly oppressive atmosphere, while many of them also face  threats, beatings, and imprisonment. Numerous others have passed away, left with questions unanswered and no closure. Current members work determinedly to carry the torch of their colleagues and are committed to the path of speaking truth to power. WLUML proudly accompanies the Mothers of Khavaran on their quest for justice. These women serve as a great source of inspiration for people committed to human rights and transparency in law.