Detained in Iran, Narges Mohammadi was unable to travel to Oslo on Sunday to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. One of the most prominent figures of the 'Women, Life, Freedom' movement, she has spent most of the last two decades in and out of prison for her stance in favor of women's rights and against the death penalty. Profile.
The Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi, imprisoned in her country since 2021, received the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on Sunday, December 10. Her children read her speech, in which she denounced the “tyrannical and misogynistic religious regime” of Iran.
“I am a woman from the Middle East, from a region that, although heir to a rich civilization, is currently trapped in war and prey to the flames of terrorism and extremism,” she said in a written message “after the high and cold prison walls”, in which he urged the international community to do more for human rights.
In his absence, a chair with his portrait remained symbolically empty.
The story of Narges Mohammadi is, above all, the sacrifice of a mother who gave her life to the fight for human rights in Iran. Her daughter Kiana and her son Ali, 17-year-old twins, have not seen her for eight years, in addition to not being able to talk to her on the phone for a year and a half.
They both live in Paris with their father, Taghi Rahmani, who decided to take them to France (where he has taken refuge since 2012), by mutual agreement with his wife, as he explained this week in an interview with France 24.
Since the activist was unable to travel to Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, Taghi Ramani and her children collected the prestigious award on her behalf and made her voice heard.
Before his wife, Taghi Rahmani spent 14 years in Iranian prisons. “In 24 years of marriage, we have spent five or six together,” she told AFP.
“The price of the struggle is not only torture and prison, it is a heart that breaks with every cry and a pain that penetrates to the marrow of the bones,” Narges Mohammadi told AFP in September. He explained that the worst torture was being away from his children. But he added determinedly: “I believe that until democracy, equality and freedom are achieved, we must continue to fight and sacrifice.”
One of the most respected faces of the Iranian opposition
The activist is one of the most respected faces of the Iranian opposition, and has been for several decades. For some experts, she is even someone who could play a role in the event of the Islamic Republic's demise.
First detained 22 years ago, Narges Mohammadi has spent most of the last two decades in and out of prison. Since 2021 she has been held in Evin prison, in the Iranian capital, along with other political prisoners. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) considers that she is the victim of “real judicial harassment.”
⚡️Pénitentiaire violence in #Iran : the journalist, Narges Mohammadi, reported on the new attack in the Evin prison. Près d'un an après la mort de #MahsaAmini to the suite of police violence, the persécutions du régime continuent https://t.co/m3I7QRSeo8
— RSF (@RSF_inter) September 12, 2023
“Propaganda against the system”, “rebellion”, “endangering national security”… The Iranian authorities have charged Narges Mohammadi with several charges. Over the course of her arrests, she has been sentenced to a total of more than 31 years in prison.
He has also received 154 lashes. And the activist is the subject of several processes related to her activities within the prison itself.
From university activist to emblematic figure of the 'Women, Life, Freedom' movement
An engineer by training, Narges Mohammadi began campaigning for gender equality and women's rights in Iran at university, where her activities were quickly monitored by the authorities.
The young woman began writing for several reformist newspapers and it was then that she met her husband, Taghi Rahmani, also a journalist.
In the 2000s he joined the Center for Human Rights Defenders, founded by the Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi, awarded the Nobel Prize in 2003, and precisely one of his campaigns then focused on the abolition of the death penalty.
Subsequently, her fight for human rights continued behind bars, where she recounted the mistreatment suffered by the inmates in order to denounce them more effectively. The prison also became a place of exchange and debate between inmates. The ideas circulated and she became a spokesperson for them, organizing solidarity actions among colleagues.
Although she was only able to witness from her cell the demonstrations that broke out after the death of Mahsa Amini on September 16, 2022, Narges Mohammadi believes that the 'Women, Life, Freedom' movement revealed the level of discontent in society. “The movement has accelerated the process of democracy, freedom and equality,” which is now “irreversible,” she wrote to the AFP news agency in September.
Burns her veil in the prison yard
However, the uprisings in response to the death of Mahsa Amini were followed by a bloody repression by the authorities and a wave of arrests, especially of prisoners of conscience, who were frequently sent to Evin.
From prison, he continued to denounce torture by secretly sending letters. She was one of the first to denounce the sexual violence suffered by young women detained during the 'Women, Life, Freedom' demonstrations, and she became an emblematic figure of this uprising.
She herself refused to wear the veil in prison and ended up burning her scarf in the Evin courtyard in protest on the first anniversary of Mahsa Amini's death, on September 16.
“The global support and recognition for my work in favor of human rights makes me more determined, more responsible, more passionate and full of hope. I also hope that this recognition makes Iranians who demonstrate for change stronger and more organized. Victory is near,” he reacted In a written statement to the New York Times', more determined than ever, after the announcement of her Nobel Peace Prize in October.
A worrying state of health
But since her nomination, she has been put to a tough test. “We are concerned about Narges' health status. Once she was awarded the prize, she was subjected to much more pressure from the regime,” declared Taghi Rahmani to France 24stating that his wife could not telephone freely from prison and that conversations were frequently cut off.
Narges Mohammadi went on a hunger strike in November to protest that the prison had denied him access to medical care. He was prevented from going to the hospital because he refused to wear the mandatory veil during the visit.
But he also suffers from heart problems. His family alerted the press in November after an electrocardiogram performed by the prison doctor revealed that he needed urgent hospitalization.
Adapted from its French original
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