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Jailed Iranian women’s activist wins the Nobel Peace Prize

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The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to imprisoned rights campaigner Narges Mohammadi, for her fight against the oppression of women in Iran. Mohammadi’s award comes after a wave of protests that swept Iran after the death in custody a year ago of a young Iranian Kurd, Mahsa Amini, arrested for violating Iran’s strict dress rules for women.

Mohammadi, a 51-year-old journalist and activist, has spent much of the past two decades in and out of jail for her campaign against the mandatory hijab for women and the death penalty. She is the vice-president of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre founded by Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi, herself a Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 2003.

Mohammadi was honoured “for her fight against the oppression of women in Iran and her fight to promote human rights and freedom for all”, said Berit Reiss-Andersen, the head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee in Oslo. “Her brave struggle has come with tremendous personal costs.

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,” Reiss-Andersen said in the jury’s citation. “If the Iranian authorities make the right decision, they will release her. So, she can be present to receive this honour, which is what we primarily hope for,” she said.

The recent protests in Iran “accelerated the process of realising democracy, freedom and equality in Iran”, a process that is now “irreversible”, Mohammadi told AFP last month in a letter written from her prison cell. She and three other women held with her at Tehran’s Evin prison burned their hijabs to mark the anniversary of Amini’s death on September 16. Iranian authorities cracked down harshly on last year’s “Woman, Life, Freedom” uprising. A total of 551 protesters, including 68 children and 49 women, were killed by security forces, according to Iran Human Rights, and thousands of others were arrested.

Picture: Reihane Taravati / Middle East Images / Middle East Images via AFP / February 4, 2021 – Tehran, Iran. Narges Mohammadi, a jailed Iranian women’s rights advocate, has won the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize ‘for her fight against the oppression of women in Iran and her fight to promote human rights and freedom for all’, according to the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

In what would have been unthinkable a year ago, women now go out in public without the headscarf, in particular in Tehran and other big cities, despite the risks. Wearing the hijab is one of the pillars of the Islamic republic. The authorities have stepped up controls, using surveillance have arrested actresses who post pictures of themselves on social media without the hijab. “This year’s Peace Prize also recognises the hundreds of thousands of people who in the preceding year have demonstrated against the theocratic regimes policies of discrimination and oppression targeting women,” Reiss-Andersen said.

Last month, Iran’s conservative-dominated parliament announced heavier penalties for women who refused to wear it. Offenders will face prison sentences if the “Hijab and Chastity” bill is approved by Iran’s Guardian Council. Incarcerated this time since November 2021, Mohammadi has not seen her children, who live in France with her husband, for eight years. Considered a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International, she told AFP in her letter that she had “almost no prospect of freedom”.

If she remains behind bars, Mohammadi will not be able to make the trip to Oslo to receive her award, consisting of a diploma, a gold medal and $1 million, at the annual prize ceremony on December 10. The prize comes on the 20th anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Ebadi, who was honoured “for her efforts for democracy and human rights”, especially those of women and children. In 2003, Ebadi defied conservative Iranians by refusing to wear the hijab when she received her prize in Oslo.

This year’s prize also symbolically coincides with the 75th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. – AFP