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Faran Hesami, a Baha'i psychologist, has been awarded on March 17 in Geneva by Südwind, among other four winners, the RAHA human rights award for her contributions to human rights in the I.R. Iran. Faran Hesami is serving a four year prison for teaching psychology at the Baha'i University. Since the Baha’s are not recognized in Iran and they are barred from Iranian universities since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. In her absence her cousin Gloria Modharebi accepted the award.
Hesami got a BA in psychology at Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) before going to take her MA at Carleton University of Canada. After returning to Iran, she started cooperating with the State Welfare Organization and used to advise families. She also translated books and articles for magazines. Faran Hessami has so far published four books about training children and child molestation. All of them have had the approval of Iran’s Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry. Two of her books – Guidelines for Treating Sexually Abused Children and Preventing Child Sexual Abuse – were reprinted while the author was jailed.
Faran Hessami, 39, and her husband, also a lecturer at Baha'i Online Univesity, were summoned to Evin Prison in summer 2011 and were arrested on the spot. Hessami was charged with membership to the Baha’i community and action against national security. She was held in custody for 77 days before being released on IRR 1 billion bail. Judge Abol-Qassem Salavati, the presiding judge of Circuit 15 of Tehran Revolutionary Court, sentenced her to four years in prison. The sentence was upheld in summer 2012 by an appellate court. Before being notified of the verdict, Faran was thrown behind bars when she was following up on the case of her husband. Their small son, Artin, is being looked after by his grandmother.
The winners were selected by a special jury comprising the Nobel Prize laureate and human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi as chairwomen, the co-founder and principal investigator of the Freedom Rights Project and former executive director of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights Aaron Rhodes and the Südwind board member and human rights lawyer Karolina Januszewski.
All winners are unable to attend the award ceremony due to imprisonment and will be represented in his or her absence by their chosen representative, family member or colleague.
The physical token of the award is a metal sculpture designed and made by the well known Iranian sculptor Behruz Heshmat.