Sunday, January 31, 2010

Guest post - Save Behnam and family

I heard about this via Pauline , the coordinator of the campaign. on Facebook. I asked her to write something for the blog and here it is below. Do please sign the petition and support this campaign.




Behnam is a 22 year old artist studying for a BA Fine Arts degree at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, part of the University of the Arts London. Born in Iran, he has lived in London since the age of fifteen. Unusually for such a young artist, Behnam has held several solo art exhibitions and has exhibited alongside more established artists. His art is eclectic, much of it reflecting his strong yearning for freedom especially for the country of his birth.

In 2005, following the arrest of his father at Tehran Airport by Iranian authorities, he and his mother claimed asylum in the UK. They were subsequently tried and sentenced to 5 and 7 years imprisonment respectively and told they would be given 70 and 100 lashes for “jeopardizing Iran’s National Security”.

They were absurdly charged with this serious offence due to their association with two teenage brothers, school friends of Behnam. These students were arrested at Behnam’s family’s Tehran apartment where they were staying for some of the time that Behnam’s family were living in London. They were members of an underground group opposed to the regime and were apparently found in possession of anti-regime materials and printing equipment.

There is a culture of disbelief that sadly permeates the asylum system in the UK. The application for asylum was refused and an appeal was also unsuccessful, at least in part attributable to very poor legal representation at the time at the hands of an unqualified representative posing as a fully qualified solicitor.

It was clear to all those who know Behnam as a completely trustworthy and exemplary character that they could not stand by and let an appalling injustice happen to Behnam and his family, knowing of the terrible fate that awaits them back in Iran. It was at this point that the Behnam & Family Must Stay Campaign was set up.

Iran’s record on Human Rights is appalling. It has deteriorated since the coming to power, in 2005, of hardline President Ahmadinejad, and since the fraudulent Presidential election of June 2009 and the resulting widespread protests, there has been a further clampdown. Students and cultural figures are among the groups most targeted. Torture is rife and executions, including of juveniles, common.

Behnam and his mother’s lives are in clear danger. Like so many refugees before them, they are positive assets to this country. They must be given protection and allowed to remain in safety in the UK where they belong.

To date over 11, 200 people, including many famous names, have signed a petition calling upon the Home Secretary (we are now on number 4) to lift the threat of deportation hanging over the family and to grant them leave to remain in the UK.

The petition can be signed online .

Thank you for your support.

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