Imprisoned Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi wins 2023 Nobel Peace Prize

10/06/23 By Colette Lauture

Incarcerated Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday in recognition of her extensive campaigning for women’s rights and democracy, as well as against the death penalty.

An engineer by training, the 51-year-old has maintained her activism despite several arrests by Iranian authorities and spending years in prison. She continues to be a leading force for nationwide women-led protests, which started last year when a 22-year-old woman died in police custody. Such demonstrations became one of the most extreme challenges ever to Iran’s theocratic government.

For much of Mohammadi’s life, Iran has been governed by a supreme leader under a Shiite theocracy. Although women can hold jobs, academic positions, and even government appointments, their lives are strictly controlled. They are required by law to, at minimum, wear a headscarf, or hijab, to cover their hair.

After the Nobel announcement, Mohammadi prepared a statement in advance, in case she was named the Nobel Laureate. She said she will continue to strive for democracy, freedom and equality in Iran.

“Surely, the Nobel Peace Prize will make me more resilient, determined, hopeful and enthusiastic on this path, and it will accelerate my pace,” she also said in the statement.

Mohammadi is held at Tehran’s widely known Evin Prison. She has been imprisoned 13 times and convicted five, sentenced in total to 31 years in prison. Her most recent incarceration started in 2021 after she was detained for attending a memorial after a person was killed in nationwide protests due to increased gasoline prices.

Amnesty International called for the immediate release of Mohammadi. Amnesty Secretary-General Agnès Callamard said in a statement that the prize makes clear to Iranian authorities that their suppression of “peaceful critics and human rights defenders” will not go undisputed.

Mohammadi’s family expressed their strong support for her win. Her brother, Hadrieza Mohammadi, told The Associated Press in Norway that he knows the prize “means a lot to her,” although he hasn’t been able to see her. Mohammadi’s husband, Taghi Rahmani, hasn’t seen her for 11 years. He said their 16-year-old twins have not seen their mother for seven.

In Tehran, some expressed admiration of Mohammadi, while others said the prize might lead to more pressure on her.

Berit-Reiss Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said in Friday’s announcement that the prize is reflective of Iran’s women’s rights movement, with Mohammadi as its “undisputed leader.” She also pressed Iran to release Mohammadi in time for the Dec. 10 prize ceremony.