Tuesday

27th Feb 2024

Jailed Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner 'won't give in'

  • Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi has been held in prision since 2021 (Photo: Taghi Rahmadi)
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Earlier in December, Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. As she is imprisoned in Iran, her family accepted the prize in her name. Since the announcement, the regime has put more pressure on her and her health is endangered, husband Taghi Rahmani told EUobserver.

He speaks in farsi, his voice revealing a sense of urgency. Taghi Rahmani is the husband of this year's Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Narges Mohammadi. He is very concerned about her health. With the help of an interpreter, the EUobserver speaks to him in Paris where he lives with his children.

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  • Taghi Rahmadi and Narges Mohammadi (Photo: Taghi Rahmadi)

"Since she (Narges Mohammadi) received this price, the regime has been putting much more pressure on her. Narges has heart and lung problems, for example, but is denied treatment at the hospital since she refuses to put on a veil," Taghi Rahmani said.

He also explains that she has been on hunger strike for several weeks to protest some of the regime's latest executions.

"She won't give in."

51-year-old Narges Mohammadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her fight against the oppression of women in Iran, as well as for her fight to promote human rights and freedom for all. In their motivation, the Nobel Committee emphasised her long fight for freedom in the context of the protests under the slogan "Woman — Life — Freedom" that has been going on since the young Kurdish woman, Mahsa Jina Amini died in the custody of the Iranian morality police, just over a year ago.

Narges Mohammadi is a trained physicist but has worked as a journalist, writer and above all as an activist her whole adult life. For the past twenty years, she has been imprisoned for long stretches of time.

Outside of Iran, she is best known for her involvement with the Defenders of Human Rights Center, founded by fellow Nobel Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi in 2003. And since 2011 she has repeatedly been arrested and imprisoned by the regime for this involvement.

Her family, husband Taghi Rahmani and their twins Kiana and Ali Rahmani,17, have not been able to speak to her directly in twenty months. Indirectly, through contacts within the prison walls, they manage to stay in contact with her.

The news of the Nobel Prize reached Mohammadi quickly and she was even able to celebrate together with her fellow female inmates. However, since that day, life in prison has become even tougher for her.

Taghi Rahmani himself has a history as a political activist in Iran. He represents a nationalist, religious opposition party and was imprisoned for 14 years before fleeing with his and his wife's children to France in 2015. Narges Mohammadi decided not to follow and continue her activism.

Amnesty International designated Taghi Rahmnai as a prisoner of conscience — a person imprisoned for their views, just as Narges Mohammadi still is today. Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic of Iran claims that her crime is "spreading propaganda against the state," among other accusations.

Narges Mohammadi managed to smuggle a letter out of the prison, with the help of other inmates, after the announcement of the Nobel Prize. In it, she witnessed thoroughly on the torture and sexual aggressions against the imprisoned women.

This mistreatment of prisoners, the sexual brutality and torture was also the theme of her book 'White torture' from 2021, in which she interviews female prisoners in Iran.

EUobserver: Your wife's health is in danger, and she keeps refusing to wear the hijab and is also on hunger strike which makes it even more hazardous for her. Also, she is held in the Evin prison, which has been documented as a brutal and inhumane place. As an activist, her motivations are clear. But as a family, is it worth it?

Taghi Rahmani: "The Islamic Republic destroys lives. It has, in a certain way, destroyed ours as well. Our twins, Kiana and Ali, have not seen their mother since they were eight years old. Now they are seventeen. However, this is the price to pay to enforce and hopefully in the end liberate other women and families of Iran. The hunger strike and the refusal to put on the Islamic veil are essential for this battle. The world's eyes are on Narges now and hence, on the regime. In the end, this is Narges's choice and the choice of many, many women, and also men: to pay the price in order to make way for others."

He believes that it is possible to free the Iranian people from the regime's oppression but says it will be "very, very difficult" since the oppressor is very strong.

"They have the economic, policy and military power to hinder people in every way. We are not only talking about imprisonment, torture and the death sentence. They have the power to take your job from you, to confiscate your car and block your bank account," Taghi Rahmani says.

He says the Western world is now more than aware of what is happening in Iran and the Iranian people is lacking a strategy to do something about it.

"There is no life if there is no freedom. I myself have seen prison from within but even if I am living freely in France and can go to Oslo to receive the Nobel Prize in my wife's name I am not free, my children are not free, Iran is not free. The battle for Women, Life and freedom must continue and it can only be done through sacrifice," Taghmi Rahmani said.

On 19 December, yet another trial against Mohammadi was held by the prison's Revolutionary Court, believed to lengthen her sentence.

Since 29 November prison authorities informed her of the termination of phone calls and visits, according to her lawyer in Iran.

Author bio

Emma Sofia Dedorson is a Paris-based journalist covering politics, culture and society in France, Spain and Italy.

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