Target:
Home Secretary Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP
Region:
United Kingdom

BEHNAM AND FAMILY MUST STAY!

Behnam, an outstanding young artist and BA Hons Fine Art student at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, University of the Arts London, his younger brother, a gap year student, both former students at Quintin Kynaston School, and their mother, are in urgent need of asylum in the UK. They have lived in London since 2002.

What Behnam and his mother face is deportation to prison, torture and likely death.

As a former teacher at the boys' school and now a close family friend, I have known Behnam since his arrival at the school in 2003. I vouch for the family's complete integrity and for the authenticity of their asylum claim.

Behnam is a delightful, popular young man, an excellent role model for young people. In recognition of his achievements under adversity he was Highly Commended at the Anne Frank Awards in 2007. In 2008 he was made an Ambassador for Refugees and Arts by the Refugees & the Arts Initiative. In June 2009 Behnam was invited to work alongside an established artist facilitating a day of workshops on Islamic glasspainting at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Much of Behnam's artwork reflects his open-minded approach to politics and religion and his strong opposition to the current theocratic regime in Iran. This, alone, would place him in great danger in today's Iran.

In 2008 Behnam held an exhibition "Visions of Freedom" at the Watermans Arts Centre, Brentford, his fifth solo art exhibition in London. His latest travelling exhibition, "Where is Their Vote?", was inspired by the courage of the protesters following the Presidential Election of June, 2009. He has also exhibited alongside other artists including at venues that include the Human Rights Centre of Amnesty International,St Ethelberga's Church of Reconciliation, Portsmouth University and the Free Word Centre. He and his family are an enormous asset to our society.

The image included is "Hope for Freedom" by Behnam, aged 16, depicting the view of a political prisoner looking out towards freedom. The doves and the Statue of Liberty are outlined in the colours of the Iranian flag. Around the image are representaions of the ancient Persian Human Rights Codes of Cyrus.

In April 2005 two of Behnam's friends were arrested at Behnam's family's home in Tehran for allegedly printing and distributing anti-regime literature.

Three days later Behnam's father was arrested on arrival at Tehran Airport. Beaten and interrogated about the whereabouts of his wife and older son, Behnam's father was released following the payment of money.

He warned his wife in London, that she and Behnam were wanted by the authorities and could not return to Iran. He was subsequently re-arrested and held in the notorious Evin Prison for 15 months until he was conditionally released.

The family claimed asylum in the UK, but their claim was rejected. It again failed on appeal and this was upheld at a reconsideration hearing. Shortly after receiving this news the boys' mother collapsed and was taken to hospital. This has happened on a number of occasions since this situation arose and is clearly related to deep fears.

The family sought to take the case to the Court of Appeal, especially as there is evidence which was not available at the earlier hearing, but their application was rejected.

A fresh asylum claim, based on substantial additional evidence, was submitted in April 2008. This time the family has a highly competent solicitor. For seventeen long months there was no response from the Home Office but there have now been indications that the Home Office is about to consider the fresh application.

Should the fresh application, however, be rejected, their position is one of great danger. Both Behnam and his mother have been tried and sentenced in absentia by a court in Iran on political charges. Behnam has been sentenced prison for 5 years, his mother to 7 years.

Even more shocking is that they have been warned that they will receive lashes, 70 in Behnam's case and 100 in the mother's. Knowing the people concerned we cannot see how they could survive such a brutal ordeal.

The Iranian regime has an appalling, and deteriorating, Human Rights record - including executions of minors, floggings, rape and other forms of torture. The already lamentable state of human rights in Iran has worsened even further following the phoney Presidetial election of June 2009, with groups such as students and artists being targetted.

We are completely dismayed and outraged by the suffering this delightful family are going through. They fell victim of serious malpractice by their previous legal representative.The family has so far been denied justice.

Should the fresh application be refused,the family is at real risk of deportation to Iran. This petition is part of a campaign to stop this.

Please sign the onlne petition if you have not signed the paper one. In all, over 11,200 people have so far signed the petition, demonstrating the enormous concern there is for this much loved, vulnerable family in such danger.

Included in a long list of prominent supporters of the campaign are Isabelle Allende, Michael Palin, Nicole Farhi, Katherine Hammett, Paula Rego, Mark Titchner, Ken Loache, Polly Toynbee, Yasmin Allibhai-Brown, Rory Bremner, Darius Campbell Danesh , Eva Schloss (Anne Frank's step-sister), faith and community leaders, MPs, Peers and MEPs.

THEY MUST NOT BE RETURNED TO IRAN TO BE TORTURED! THEY MUST BE ALLOWED TO STAY IN THE UK!

If you would like to get involved in the campaign please let me know.

On behalf of the family, thanks for your support.

Pauline Levis
Coordinator, Behnam & Family Must Stay Campaign
pauline.levis@btopenworld.com


In the light of massive Human Rights violations in Iran and the worsening situation under the hardline government of President Ahmadinejad we appeal to the government of the United Kingdom to lift the threat of deportation to Iran hanging over two brothers aged 19 and 15 at Quintin Kynaston School, Westminster, and their mother.

* The brothers are now 22 and 18. The older boy has now completed his schooling, has gained a Diploma with Merit in Art and Design from Byam Shaw School of Art and is now a BA Hons student at Central St Martins College of Art & Design, University of the Arts London.

Following the arrest of the boys' father at Teheran Airport in April 2005 the older boy and his mother have been tried by the Revolutionary Court in Iran because of their political views and sentenced in absentia to prison sentences of 5 and 7 years.

Torture is routine in Iranian prisons and in accordance with common practice it is highly likely they will also receive a brutal punishment of lashes.
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