The Nobel Peace Prize to Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi!
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2023 to Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi for “her struggle against the oppression of women in Iran and her efforts to promote human rights and freedom for all.” Mohammadi is one of the most renowned activists for women’s rights and human rights in Iran, who supported, among other things, the protests that began last year following the death of Mahsa Amini.
For her human rights advocacy, the political-religious regime governing Iran has arrested Mohammadi 13 times, subjected her to five criminal convictions, and sentenced her to a total of 31 years in prison. As part of various convictions, she has also endured corporal punishments, including 154 lashes. She remains in prison, convicted on fabricated charges.
From the description of the award’s motivations, it is evident that the Nobel Committee chose Mohammadi not only for her decades-long commitment to defending human rights in Iran but also as a symbol of the protests of the past year, represented by the slogan “Women – Life – Freedom.”
Who is Narges Mohammadi
Mohammadi was born in 1972 in Zanjan, a city about 300 kilometers northwest of Tehran, the Iranian capital. She graduated in Physics but has been involved in underground women’s rights movements since her university years. In 2003, she joined the Center for Human Rights Defenders, an NGO founded by Shirin Ebadi, another Nobel Peace laureate. She quickly became its vice president.
Mohammadi focused primarily on advocating for the rights of prisoners and political detainees, as well as campaigns to abolish the death penalty. Throughout her career, she was arrested numerous times and spent a significant part of the last 15 years in prison. From behind bars, she initiated various campaigns against the use of torture and sexual abuses, especially against female inmates.
In September 2022, protests erupted in Iran after the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman from Iranian Kurdistan. Amini had been detained by religious police for not wearing the required Islamic veil or hijab under Iranian law. Her likely death due to police violence sparked massive protests, ultimately posing the most significant challenge to the theocratic regime established in Iran after the 1979 Khomeini revolution.
The years in prison
During the protests, despite being in prison, Mohammadi supported demonstrators and took on a moral “leadership” role, as noted by the Committee. She was held at Evin prison in Tehran, known for political detainees, and still managed to send articles and messages of solidarity to protesters.
The regime’s response to the protests turned increasingly brutal, resulting in over 500 deaths and the arrests of around 20,000 people.
Evin prison, where Mohammadi was held, also filled with those who had participated in the previous year’s protests. Many of them endured torture, particularly women who often faced the harshest treatment. In late 2022, Mohammadi, from her prison cell, wrote a letter to the BBC detailing how rape and sexual violence were systematically employed as forms of torture against detained women at Evin.