Jailed Nobel Prize Laureate Narges Mohammadi Faces Trial: Read Report

Iranian Nobel laureate Narges Mohammadi faces a pivotal trial in Tehran this week, a crucial juncture in her relentless pursuit of justice. It's her first trial since her family accepted the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize on her behalf in Oslo.

Oshi Saxena
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(Photo from the Center for Human Rights in Iran)

Nobel Peace laureate Narges Mohammadi is set to confront a new trial this week, marking a pivotal moment in her enduring struggle for human rights. The proceedings, scheduled to commence on Tuesday at Tehran's revolutionary court, come in the wake of her family's acceptance of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize on her behalf in Oslo on December 10, 2023.


As the legal proceedings unfold, the charges remain shrouded in ambiguity, but they are widely believed to be linked to Mohammadi's activism within the confines of Tehran's notorious Evin prison, where she has boldly opposed Iran's Islamic authorities and the mandatory hijab for women.

The Trial

Commencing at 10:00 am on December 19 in Branch 26 of the revolutionary court, this trial holds the potential to reshape Mohammadi's fate. The family, in a statement, expressed concern that, if convicted in this case, she could be mandated to serve her sentence in a prison beyond Tehran. 

Mohammadi's storied history includes 13 arrests, five sentences, and a consistent pattern of resilience in the face of adversity. In the two preceding trials, she faced 27 months in prison along with four months of street sweeping and social work.

Isolation and Deprivation

The poignant aspect of Mohammadi's predicament is her enduring isolation. Deprived of the right to make phone calls, she has been estranged from her Paris-based husband and twin 17-year-old children for several years. Even her Nobel Prize acceptance, eloquently delivered through her children, highlighted the severe limitations imposed on her communication with the outside world. Since November 29, prison authorities have further heightened her isolation by terminating phone calls and visits, intensifying the challenges she faces.


The Nobel Peace Prize Triumph

The prestigious Nobel Peace Prize has found a deserving recipient in Narges Mohammadi, recognizing her relentless fight against the oppression of women in Iran. In a heartwarming announcement, Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, proclaimed,

“This prize is first and foremost a recognition of the very important work of a whole movement in Iran with its undisputed leader, Narges Mohammadi.” Such words echo the sentiment shared by many - that Narges Mohammadi's efforts have not been in vain.

Narges Mohammadi, a remarkable woman of 51, has faced numerous arrests and spent years behind bars in her unyielding quest for justice and equality in Iran. Her journey is a testament to the indomitable spirit of an activist who refuses to be silenced. It is a story that resonates with those who believe in the power of conviction.

Within the confines of her prison cell, Narges Mohammadi received news of her Nobel Peace Prize. It was a moment that reverberated not only within the prison's walls but across the globe. Her fellow inmates, echoing the powerful slogan of the movement she represents, cried out, "Woman, Life, Freedom." In that moment, her imprisonment could not stifle the resounding impact of her advocacy.


A Letter of Gratitude

Amid the walls of Evin Prison, where Narges Mohammadi has been held captive, a letter of gratitude was smuggled out. The world had the privilege of witnessing her daughter, Kiana, reading the letter on the Nobel website. In her heartfelt words, Mohammadi acknowledged the momentous impact of her Nobel Peace Prize. 

In her letter, Mohammadi expressed her gratitude to the world and urged continued support for the people of Iran in their quest for freedom. She emphasised that while victory may not come easily, it is an undeniable certainty.

Amidst the hardships she has faced, Mohammadi expresses profound gratitude for the recognition she has received. With humility and grace, she urges people worldwide to stand with the people of Iran until the final victory is achieved. In her words, "Victory is not easy, but it is certain."


The Veil of Control

For most of her life, Narges Mohammadi has lived under the governance of a Shiite theocracy in Iran. In a nation where women hold various positions, their lives remain ensnared in a web of restrictions. The mandatory wearing of the hijab, a headscarf, is a symbol of piety but also a testament to the societal constraints faced by Iranian women. Notably, Iran and its neighbour, Afghanistan, remain the only countries enforcing such a mandate.

A Life Behind Bars

Even as we celebrate Mohammadi's Nobel Peace Prize, we must remember that she is still behind bars. Charges against her include spreading propaganda against the state, a testament to the formidable challenges she faces daily. Mohammadi has been imprisoned an astonishing 13 times and convicted five times, with a cumulative sentence of 31 years in prison. Her most recent incarceration began in 2021 when she attended a memorial for a person killed during nationwide protests. 

She has been detained at Tehran's notorious Evin Prison since 2012, alongside Western detainees and political prisoners. The Front Line Defenders rights organization reports that she is currently serving multiple sentences in Tehran's Evin Prison, amounting to approximately 12 years of imprisonment.

She has been separated from her husband for 15 years and her children for seven. Nonetheless, her resolve remains unshaken. She credited the movement's strength to the solid agency of Iranian women, who know what they want and are strong in their pursuit of it.

Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN human rights office in Geneva, commends the courage of Iranian women, stating, "The women of Iran have been an inspiration for the world." She calls for the release of Mohammadi and all other human rights defenders detained in Iran

The Norwegian Nobel Committee's hope is that this Nobel Prize serves as an encouragement and a call to arms, urging Iran to release Mohammadi in time for the prestigious prize ceremony on December 10. Her release would symbolise a step towards a more open and just society, a society where the voice of the people is not stifled but celebrated.

A Nobel Legacy

Narges Mohammadi joins the esteemed ranks of Nobel Peace Prize laureates as the 19th woman and the second Iranian woman to receive this honour, following in the footsteps of human rights activist Shirin Ebadi, who received the award in 2003. Mohammadi's legacy will inspire generations to come, demonstrating that a single individual can be a powerful catalyst for change.

Remarkably, this marks the fifth time in the history of the Nobel Peace Prize that it has been awarded to an individual in prison or under house arrest. This acknowledgement underscores the strength that emerges from adversity, the resilience that defiance against injustice fosters.

Narges Mohammadi's journey towards the Nobel Peace Prize was not a solitary one. It coincides with a wave of protests that began in Iran in September 2022, ignited by the tragic death of  Mahsa Amini,  a 22-year-old woman who was brutally beaten and killed while in the custody of Iran's morality police. Her crime? Wearing her hijab incorrectly. The nation was galvanized, with Iranian women courageously setting their headscarves on fire, all the while chanting, "women, life, freedom." This movement showcases the profound impact Narges Mohammadi's work has had on the Iranian people.

Documenting Injustice

Not content with just fighting for women's rights, Ms. Mohammadi published a remarkable book last year, titled "White Torture." This powerful tome documents the harrowing experiences of 14 female prisoners in Iran, gathered during her own incarceration at Tehran's Evin prison. 

The preface of her account sends shivers down our spines: "I am writing this preface in the final hours of my home leave. Very soon I will be forced to return to my prison … This time I was found guilty because of the book you are holding in your hands – White Torture." These ominous words, penned in the throes of adversity

Narges Mohammadi's journey from activism to the Nobel Peace Prize is a story of resilience, sacrifice, and unwavering determination. The legacy of Narges Mohammadi is a testament to the power of one person to spark change, inspire millions, and bring hope to those in the darkest of circumstances. It is a legacy that we all can learn from and be inspired by.

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