Iranian human rights activist Narges Mohammadi was announced the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday (6/07).

The committee of the world’s most important award praised the 51-year-old Mohammadi’s fight against the oppression of women in the Islamic country.

Mohammadi is currently serving a 10-year sentence in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.

Last year’s award went to the Russian human rights group Memorial, the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties and Belarusian human rights defender Ales Bialiatski.

They were jointly recognized for “promoting peace” in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The names of the nominees are kept secret, but more than 350 people and groups were in the running this year.

Message to Iran

Mohammadi’s struggle has had a “tremendous personal cost”, said the chair of the Nobel Prize committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen.

At the ceremony on Friday in Oslo, Reiss-Andersen began her speech with the words “woman – life – freedom”, in reference to the slogan of the recent mass protests sweeping Iran.

She went on to describe the award as recognition of the hundreds of thousands of Iranian women and men who have demonstrated over the past year against “the theocratic regime’s policies of discrimination and oppression against women” – a movement led, she said, by the new Nobel laureate.

Millions of Iranians should applaud this award along with human rights activists around the world.

The Nobel committee’s decision also sends a very strong signal of disapproval to the Iranian authorities.

At the ceremony, Reiss-Andersen also urged Iran to release Mohammadi from prison so that she could attend the award ceremony, scheduled for December.

“If the Iranian authorities make the right decision, they will release her so that she can be present to receive this honor, which is what we mainly hope for,” she said.

But it is highly unlikely that the activist will actually be able to receive the award in person.

The UN said the award highlighted “the courage and determination of the women of Iran and how they are an inspiration to the world”.

Detained 13 times

Narges Mohammadi is an activist and deputy leader of the Center for Human Rights Defenders, founded by fellow Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi.

Speaking to the BBC in 2020, Mohammadi explained why she was dedicated to promoting women’s rights in Iran.

“In my opinion, supporting human rights efforts and actions that aim to achieve freedom and justice anywhere, whether in Iran or in another country, is very important and very touching,” she said.

She said her focus was on creating an institution that guarantees people’s rights.

“If our efforts in Iran, along with all the recognition and support from outside Iran, lead to the creation of a body that guarantees rights in any society, including Iran, we can say that we will be able to solve problems related to human rights,” she said

Mohammadi has been arrested 13 times, convicted five times and sentenced to a total of 31 years in prison.

She was also sentenced to 154 lashes – it is unclear whether this punishment was carried out.

Last December, she wrote from prison and gave harrowing details to the BBC about how Iranian women detained at demonstrations were being sexually and physically abused.

She said that such assaults became more common during the protests, triggered by the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September 2022.

The wave later spread across the country, with demands ranging from more freedoms to the overthrow of the state.

Images of Iranian women setting fire to their headscarves went around the world.

Iranian authorities brutally repressed the protests, which largely subsided.

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