Thinker's Chronicle

Who is Narges Mohammadi?

Narges Mohammadi––51-year old Iranian human rights activist, journalist, wife, and mother. Mohammadi has been a symbol of women’s rights and independence for several decades. She was awarded the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize for her extensive work in condemning the Iranian government’s brutal style of dealing with dissidents and for promoting equality and freedom for women. Specifically, she has repeatedly spoken out against the compulsory wearing of a hijab and the use of the death penalty in Iran.

At the time she was awarded this prize, Mohammadi was imprisoned in Iran’s Evin prison, notorious for its “chronic overcrowding, severely limited hot water, poor ventilation, and infestations of cockroaches and mice” according to USA Today. 

The Nobel Prize organization has reported that over the course of the last two decades, Mohammadi has been “arrested 13 times and sentenced to 31 years in prison and 154 lashes.” After the 2022 death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year old woman who was arrested for breaching Iran’s strict dress code for women, Mohammadi joined with other women leaders to promote the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement.

According to their organization page, “women must comply with the Islamic Republic’s mandatory hijab laws from the onset of puberty, and they are unequal in matters of marriage, divorce, custody, inheritance and more. In the Fall of 2022, hundreds of protesters, including dozens of children, have been killed by Iranian authorities.” 

Narges Mohammadi was also a pillar of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, an Iranian human rights organization. The Defenders of Human Rights Center was founded in 2001 by 5 individuals, 4 of whom were on the brink of being imprisoned, of which two eventually were sent to Evin prison. As a result, initial meetings of the group (which did not yet include Mohammadi) were conducted in the prison as those outside visited those in jail. Narges Mohammadi joined this organization in 2003 and is currently the vice president.

When the human rights organization was banned in Iran in 2008, Mohammadi’s passport was taken away and she was unable to leave the country. She was arrested several times, and during one such imprisonment, she published her book White Torture: Interviews with Iranian Women Prisoners, in which she chronicles the experiences of 13 imprisoned women. 

At the time she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Mohammadi also began a hunger strike in solidarity with the Bahá’í religious community. The largest religious minority in Iran, it is not a recognized religion, and the community has faced intense discrimination in the country. 

“They are barred from holding government jobs, and their shops and other enterprises are routinely closed or discriminated against by officials at all levels. Young Baha’is are prevented from attending university, and those volunteer Baha’i educators who have sought to fill that gap have been arrested and imprisoned,” according to the Baha’i International Community. Mohammadi is currently serving a sentence of 10 years and 9 months on the accusation of being a risk to national security and having spread propaganda against Iran.

One week ago, on January 15th, Mohammadi’s sentence was prolonged another 15 months on the charge of propaganda again. This verdict also includes “two years of ban residing in Tehran and neighboring provinces, a two-year travel ban, a two-year prohibition on membership in social-political groups, and a two-year restriction on using a smartphone.” Narges Mohammadi’s courageous struggle to fight for the rights of Iranians is an ongoing battle for the voices of tens of millions of individuals. 

Advika Rajeev