Iran's jailed Narges Mohammadi to receive Nobel Peace Prize in absentia

Her 17-year-old twins Ali and Kiani will receive the award on her behalf and read out a speech that she managed to smuggle out of her cell

By AFP

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Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Published: Sun 10 Dec 2023, 11:12 AM

The Nobel Peace Prize will be handed out in Oslo on Sunday but with the notable absence of winner Narges Mohammadi, currently in prison, who will be represented by her children.

Iranian activist Mohammadi — a staunch opponent of the mandatory wearing of the hijab for Iranian women and of the death penalty in her home country — has been arrested and convicted many times in recent decades.

She has been detained since 2021 in Tehran's Evin prison.

She will therefore be absent from the glitzy award ceremony at 1pm (1200 GMT) in Oslo City Hall, where she was to receive the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded in October "for her fight against the oppression of women in Iran".

Instead, her 17-year-old twins Ali and Kiani, will receive the award on her behalf and read out a speech that she managed to smuggle out of her cell.

The husband and children of this year's winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Ali, Taghi and Kiana Rahmani pose for pictures after signing the guest book  at the Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway, December 9, 2023. Reuters
The husband and children of this year's winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Ali, Taghi and Kiana Rahmani pose for pictures after signing the guest book at the Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway, December 9, 2023. Reuters

According to her family, Mohammadi will be observing a hunger strike at the same time, in solidarity with the Baha'i community.

Representatives of Iran's largest religious minority say it is the target of discrimination in many areas of society.

Mohammadi, who suffers from poor health, went on a hunger strike for several days in early November to obtain the right to be transferred to hospital without wearing a head covering.

She is one of the women spearheading the "Woman, Life, Freedom" uprising, which included months-long protests across Iran triggered by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

Amini, an Iranian Kurdish woman, died on September 16, 2022, while being held by Iran's religious police for allegedly breaching the Islamic republic's strict dress code for women.

Mohammadi's twins, who have been living in exile in France since 2015 and have not seen their mother for almost nine years, do not know if they will ever see her again.

Ali has faith. Kiana is doubtful.

"The cause of 'Woman, Life, Freedom', freedom in general and democracy are worth sacrificing yourself for and giving your life for, because in the end these three things are priceless", Kiana told reporters at a press conference in Oslo on Saturday.

"As for seeing her again one day, personally I'm rather pessimistic," she added, noting that the added attention her mother received for being awarded the Nobel prize was likely to make the Iranian authorities curtail her freedom further.

"Maybe I'll see her in 30 or 40 years but if not, I don't think I'll ever see her again. But that's OK because my mother will always be with me in my heart and with my family."

In contrast, Ali said he was "very, very optimistic", even if it probably won't happen "in two, five or 10 years".

"I believe in our victory", he told reporters, sitting next to his sister.

"Victory is not easy but it is certain," he said, quoting his mother.

In October, the European Union awarded its top rights honour, the Sakharov Prize, to fellow Iranian woman Amini and the global movement her death triggered.

The "Woman, Life, Freedom" movement demands the end of Iran's imposition of a headscarf on all women and an end to the Muslim cleric-led government in Tehran.

Protests in Iran triggered by Amini's death have been severely repressed.

The Iran Human Rights group (IHR) says 551 demonstrators, including dozens of women and children, have been killed by security forces, and thousands have been arrested.

On Saturday, the lawyer for Amini's family said her parents and brother — who were due to receive the posthumous Sakharov Prize on Amini's behalf at a European Parliament ceremony on December 13 — have been banned from leaving Iran.

Narges Mohammadi is the fifth laureate in the more than 120-year history of the Nobel Peace Prize to receive the award while detained.

She follows Germany's Carl von Ossietzky, Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi, China's Liu Xiaobo and Belarus' Ales Beliatski.

The other Nobel prizes — in literature, chemistry, medicine, physics and economics —were due to be awarded later on Sunday at a ceremony in Stockholm.

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