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Narges Mohammadi’s Nobel Renews Hope for Iranian Women and Human Rights Supporters

October 6, 2023
8 min read
Narges Mohammadi, a human rights activist and political prisoner in the notorious Evin Prison, has been awarded the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize
Narges Mohammadi, a human rights activist and political prisoner in the notorious Evin Prison, has been awarded the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize

Narges Mohammadi, a human rights activist and political prisoner in the notorious Evin Prison, has been awarded the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize.

This marks the second time an Iranian woman and champion of human rights have been honored with the prestigious award.

The Nobel Committee, guided by the motto "Woman, Life, Freedom,” acknowledged in their statement Mohammadi’s unwavering dedication to combating the oppression of women in Iran and her relentless efforts to advance human rights and freedom for all.

Nobel Committee's Message to the Islamic Republic: Listen to the People

On Friday, October 6, the Nobel Committee in Norway made its momentous announcement, bestowing the prestigious international award upon Narges Mohammadi.

The statement says Mohammadi’s "fight against the oppression of women in Iran and her fight to promote human rights and freedom for all” inspired the award.

"Her brave struggle has come with tremendous personal costs. Altogether, the regime has arrested her 13 times, convicted her five times, and sentenced her to a total of 31 years in prison and 154 lashes," the statement adds.

The Nobel Committee also said the rallying cry of recent protesters in Iran, "Woman, Life, Freedom," encapsulates Mohammadi’s sacrifices and dedication.

Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee who announced the prize in Oslo, said the prize "is first and foremost a recognition of the very important work of a whole movement in Iran with its undisputed leader, Nargis [sic] Mohammadi.”

Reiss-Andersen said the committee hopes the prize “is an encouragement to continue the work in whichever form this movement finds to be fitting.”

She also urged Iran to release Mohammadi in time for the prize ceremony on December 10.

Reis-Anderson expounded on the rallying cry of “Woman, Life, Freedom” itself.

“Woman,” Reis-Anderson, said “fights for women against systematic discrimination and oppression."

Regarding "life," the statement highlighted Mohammadi's support for women's quest for the right to lead fulfilling and dignified lives, despite facing harassment, incarceration, torture, and even death throughout Iran in pursuit of this goal.

And “freedom” suggested that “she fights for freedom of expression and the right of independence, and against rules requiring women to remain out of sight and to cover their bodies. Freedom demands expressed by demonstrators apply not only to women, but to the entire population."

"Ms Mohammadi is still in prison as I speak," Reis-Anderson said.

Narges Mohammadi, beyond her 13 arrests, five convictions, and a cumulative sentence of 31 years in prison and with 154 lashes, has also courageously exposed the physical and sexual harassment of women by security agents during detentions and imprisonment in Iran.

Such harrowing experiences and bold efforts have placed Mohammadi squarely in the path of an authoritarian system's brutality – yet they have failed to silence her clarion call for justice.

The Nobel Committee's statement regarding Mohammadi explicitly acknowledged also: "Her valiant struggle [which] has exacted a tremendous personal toll."

"Her activism against the death penalty led to Mohammadi’s re-arrest in 2015, and to a sentence of additional years behind walls," The Nobel Peace Committee's statement reads.

"Upon her return to prison, she began opposing the regime’s systematic use of torture and sexualised violence against political prisoners, especially women, that is practised in Iranian prisons," the statement adds.

In recent years, Mohammadi has been unable to live with her family, who were compelled to leave Iran.

Taghi Rahmani, her husband, departed Iran in January 2012, having been arrested over eight times and spending a significant portion of his life behind bars.

After Mohammadi was sentenced to prison, their two children also left Iran to join their father.

During her detention and imprisonment, Mohammadi was repeatedly denied the opportunity to speak with her children.

An hour after the news of the Nobel, Mohammadi's family issued a statement, extending their congratulations to all Iranians, especially the courageous women and girls of Iran.

They said, "This remarkable honor is a lasting testament to Narges Mohammadi's tireless civil and peaceful efforts to bring about change and freedom for Iran."

Her family expressed their regret that she remains in prison and added, "Unfortunately, Narges is not with us to share this wonderful moment because she has been unjustly imprisoned, and we cannot witness her joyful reaction to this remarkable and glorious news."

"This remarkable honor belongs to each and every one of you, the resilient and brave people of Iran, who have tirelessly and peacefully fought for freedom,” the statement added.

Previously, Mohammadi had written a letter to IranWire regarding the years spent away from her children.

She reflected, "I have paused in time; those tiny slippers my daughter used to wear have become a distant memory. I saw Kiana on Skype; she has grown up, her hair is long, and her face has changed. Ali has changed, and my curly-haired little boy has grown taller."

Another portion of the letter stated, "Tyranny halts life. It transforms distance into an active force while rendering meetings and togetherness passive.”

"Tyranny scorches the soul and inflicts harm upon it, both seen and unseen. It's not just physical torture, imprisonment, exile, and suppression; tyranny withers away the vitality of human existence from every angle and at every moment,” Mohammadi wrote.

Three Decades Dedicated to Women's Rights

Nearly three decades of dedicated work in advancing human rights in authoritarian Iran have marked Narges Mohammadi's remarkable journey. She began working as a journalist at Payam Hajar weekly in 1996 while also joining the Human Rights Defenders Center.

Today she serves as Vice President of the Human Rights Defenders Center and leads its Women's Committee.

Mohammadi is also a founding member of the National Peace Council in Iran, where she has held the position of Executive Board Head since 2018.

She has been a prominent advocate against the death penalty in Iran and an active participant in the Legam campaign, striving for the gradual abolition of executions.

This indefatigable human rights advocate initiated a campaign against solitary confinement and gathered substantial first-hand testimony concerning the sexual abuse of female prisoners.

In February 2018, Mohammadi was among 15 political and civil activists who emphasized the "irreformability" of the Islamic Republic and called for a United Nations-supervised referendum to facilitate a "peaceful transition" from the existing government to a "secular parliamentary democracy."

On July 15, 2022, Mohammadi expressed her support for the movement opposing compulsory hijab in Iran via a note on her Instagram page.

In her statement she addressed the Head of the Judiciary, emphasizing that the Iranian women's struggle for the right to choose their own clothing is not a shameless act but a courageous quest for their rights.

And in a message published on the one-year anniversary of Mahsa Amini's death in custody, last month, she and a group of political prisoners labeled the day as "the commemoration of the religious authoritarian regime's oppression against the women of Iran."

The Second Nobel Peace Prize Awarded to an Iranian Woman

Shirin Ebadi, a jurist, former judge, author, and lecturer, made history as the first Iranian to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008.

The Nobel Peace Prize is one of five Nobel Prizes endowed by Alfred Nobel, a Swedish industrialist and inventor. It was first presented in 1901.

In his will, Alfred Nobel stipulated that this prize should be awarded to someone who has made the most outstanding contribution to the promotion of international brotherhood, the reduction or dissolution of armed forces, or the establishment and encouragement of peace conferences.

Unlike the other Nobels, the Peace Prize is not awarded in Stockholm; instead, it is bestowed annually in Oslo, the capital of Norway.

Over the years, Nobel Peace Prize candidates and laureates have faced various controversies and political challenges, but the list of winners includes influential figures such as Nelson Mandela, Jane Addams, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama.

Additionally, organizations like the Red Cross, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Labor Organization, Amnesty International, and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, have been recognized with the award.

Iranian authorities remained silent today in response to the awarding of this prize to a human rights activist imprisoned in Iran.

Recent anti-establishment protests in Iran were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, in September 2023, while in police custody for an alleged head scarf violation.

The authorities responded to the women-led protest movement with a brutal crackdown that has claimed the lives of more than 500 people.

Thousands of others have been unlawfully arrested and prosecuted as well as injured and maimed.

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, director of the Norway-based Iran Human Rights organization, expressed the hope that Mohammadi’s Nobel prize award “will draw the international community’s attention to the Iranian people’s struggle for their fundamental human rights.”

Reporters Without Borders reiterated its call on the authorities in Iran to release the activist, who the Paris-based media freedom watchdog said “continues to report and denounce abuses against women while in detention.”

In Germany, parliament member Ye-One Rhie said the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize “goes out to you and your bravery – and to everybody fighting for women's rights all over the world. Especially in Iran. Please keep fighting. We see you.”

Many Iranian artists and activists also welcomed Mohammadi’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Taraneh Alidoosti, an actress who opposes compulsory hijab and a supporter of the Women, Life, Freedom movement, wrote on Instagram in English that Mohammadi is a “Freedom fighter and Women’s rights heroine.”

“For us, she sacrificed everything,” she added. “Freedom will come."



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