The Norwegian Nobel Committee has given a boost to the “Woman – Life – Freedom” movement in Iran by recognizing the courage of a 51-year-old human rights activist who embodies this slogan. Today (October 6), the committee awarded Narges Mohammadi the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to promote human rights and freedom in her country.
“Her brave struggle has come with tremendous personal costs,” said Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. “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. Ms. Mohammadi is still in prison as I speak.”
Reiss-Andersen noted that in 2022, a young Kurdish woman, Mahsa Jina Amini, died while in custody of the Iranian morality police.
“Her killing triggered the largest political demonstrations against Iran’s theocratic regime since it came to power in 1979,” Reiss-Andersen stated. “Under the slogan ‘Woman – Life – Freedom’, hundreds of thousands of Iranians took part in peaceful protests against the authorities’ brutality and oppression of women. The regime cracked hard down on the protests: more than 500 demonstrators were killed. Thousands were injured, including many who were blinded by rubber bullets fired by the police. At least 20,000 people were arrested and held in custody.”
Reiss-Andersen went on to say that the protesters’ motto, which is “Zan – Zendegi – Azadi” in Farsi, “suitably expresses the dedication and work of Narges Mohammadi”.
“In the 1990s, as a young physics student, Narges Mohammadi was already distinguishing herself as an advocate for equality and women’s rights,” the committee chair said. “After concluding her studies, she worked as an engineer as well as a columnist in various reform-minded newspapers.
“In 2003 she became involved with the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Tehran, an organization founded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi,” Reiss-Andersen continued. “In 2011 Ms. Mohammadi was arrested for the first time and sentenced to many years of imprisonment for her efforts to assist incarcerated activists and their families.”
After being released on bail two years later, Mohammadi campaigned against the death penalty.
“Her activism against the death penalty led to the re-arrest of Ms. Mohammadi in 2015, and to a sentence of additional years behind walls,” Reiss-Andersen said. “Upon her return to prison, she began opposing the regime’s systematic use of torture and sexualized violence against political prisoners, especially women, that is practised in Iranian prisons.”
After protests broke out in Iran last year, Mohammadi expressed support from inside prison. As a result, authorities cut her off from receiving calls or visitors.
“She nevertheless managed to smuggle out an article which the New York Times published on the one-year anniversary of Mahsa Jina Amini’s killing,” the committee chair stated. “The message was: ‘The more of us they lock up, the stronger we become.’ From captivity, Ms. Mohammadi has helped to ensure that the protests have not ebbed out.”