Jailed human rights activist Narges Mohammadi, 51, has been awarded the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her fight against the oppression of Iran’s women and her fight to promote human rights and freedom for all.
Mohammadi was announced as this year’s laureate on Friday at 11:00 local time in Oslo, by Berit Reiss-Andersen, head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
“Zan. Zendegi. Azadi. Women. Life. Freedom,” Reiss-Andersen began, drawing on the motto used by Iran’s protesters who took to the streets en masse since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September 2022 while in police custody after she was arrested for allegedly wearing her headscarf too loosely.
Announcing Mohammadi’s selection, Reiss-Andersen said: “Her brave struggle has come with tremendous personal cost. All together, the regime has arrested her 13 times, convicted her 5 times, and sentenced her to a total of 31 years in prison, and 154 lashes.” She emphasized that Mohammadi is still in jail at that exact moment.
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In a statement sent to the New York Times, Mohammadi shared her reaction to winning the prize: "The global support and recognition of my human rights advocacy makes me more resolved, more responsible, more passionate and more hopeful,” she told the publication. “I also hope this recognition makes Iranians protesting for change stronger and more organized. Victory is near.”
Who is Narges Mohammadi?
Mohammadi began her reform activism in local journalism, but she is best known for her involvement with the Defenders of Human Rights Center—founded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi—since 2003. Before her arrest, she served as Vice President of the human rights organization. Mohammadi has been repeatedly arrested for her work in assisting incarcerated activists and their families, with the first instance dating back to 2011.
After being released on bail in 2013, Mohammadi began campaigning for the abolition of the death penalty in Iran. Iran was the nation with the highest known executions last year, at 576, according to a report by Amnesty International published in May.
Mohammadi is currently serving multiple sentences amounting to 12 years in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. “Upon her return to prison, she began opposing the regime’s systematic use of torture and sexualized violence against political prisoners, and especially women, that is practised in Iranian prisons,” Reiss-Andersen said.
Mohammadi has played her part in the mass protest movement in Iran since Amini’s death, organizing solidarity events with other political prisoners. She also managed to smuggle out an article which was published in the New York Times in September, in which she explained the environment of the prison when news of the protests reached them.
Concluding her speech, Reiss-Andersen said that Mohammadi’s selection also recognized hundreds of thousands of protestors who have resisted the Iranian regime. “Only by embracing equal rights for all, can the world achieve the fraternity between nations that Alfred Nobel sought to promote,” she said.
Mohammadi is the 19th woman, and second Iranian woman, to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Mohammadi had been included in the annual shortlist by Henrik Urdal, director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo, as one of his first picks for this year's prize. “We were delighted to see a human rights defender win the prize this year, and it was [the] first on our shortlist,” Urdal tells TIME. “We hope today’s prize will send a clear message to world leaders including the United States that international pressure is needed to improve the lives of girls and women in Iran.”
Urdal's shortlist, which is widely studied each year, also featured Afghan journalist Mahbouba Seraj, Indigenous rights activists Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Juan Carlos Jintiach, the International Court of Justice, Kyaw Moe Tun and Myanmar's National Unity Consultative Council, and the nonprofit Human Rights Data Analysis Group that tracks rights violations around the globe.
Last year's prize was won by human rights activists from Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, in what was seen as a condemnation of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko.
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