Sakharov Prize and Nobel Peace Prize for 2 Iranian Women

Mahsa Amini Protest (Wikimedia)

HRWF (12.12.2023) – Two Iranian women, Mahsa Amini and Narges Mohammadi, are being honored this year because they fight for women’s rights in their country, the one for the sacrifice of her life and the other of her freedom.

EU gives Mahsa Amini rights prize as Iran blocks family attendance

France 24 (12.12.2023) – EU lawmakers on Tuesday present a top rights prize to Mahsa Amini, whose death in Iranian custody sparked mass protests, but her family won’t attend after being blocked by Tehran. 

The award — also for the broader “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement — is the latest international recognition for the women challenging Iran’s religious government after jailed activist Narges Mohammadi was given the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Amini’s mother, father and brother will miss the ceremony at the European Parliament in the French city of Strasbourg as Iran’s authorities confiscated their passports and barred them from flying to collect the EU’s Sakharov Prize. 

Iranian Kurd Amini died on September 16, 2022 at the age of 22 while being held by Iran’s religious police for allegedly breaching the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women. 

Her death triggered major protests in Iran and a global movement known as “Woman, Life, Freedom”, calling for the end of the Muslim cleric-led government in Tehran and its imposition of headscarves on women. 

Iranian security forces have cracked down on the protests domestically, killing hundreds, and have executed dozens for allegedly participating in what officials have called “riots”. 

The refusal by Iran’s government to let Amini’s family attend has caused outrage among EU lawmakers, who said Tehran is seeking to stifle her supporters. 

“This restriction is aimed at silencing Jina Mahsa Amini’s family, preventing them from speaking out about the Islamic Republic’s outrageous repression of women’s rights, human rights and fundamental freedoms in Iran,” 116 MEPs wrote in a letter. 

“We cannot tolerate this, the truth must not be silenced and the face of this incredible liberation movement should be shown to Europe and the world.”

Amini’s family will instead be represented by their Iranian lawyer Saleh Nikbakht at the ceremony. 

Nikbakht said at a meeting with lawmakers on Monday that Amini’s family had informed the authorities they were planning to travel but were stopped at the last moment. 

Two prominent activists living in exile outside Iran — Afsoon Najafi and Mersedeh Shahinkar — will also pick up the award in the name of the broader movement. 

Najafi’s sister died during the anti-government protests that swept Iran in the wake of Amini’s death. Shahinkar was shot in the eye by security forces. 

“I will never stay silent and I will carry on the path I’ve chosen to be a voice of my people in any way possible,” Shahinkar told lawmakers. 

“I’m going to show that my people do not want the Islamic Republic regime.”

Nobel peace prize winner Mohammadi — who has been detained since 2021 in Tehran’s Evin prison — was also unable to pick up the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on Sunday.

Mohammadi was one of the women spearheading the “Woman, Life, Freedom” uprising. 

Mohammadi’s twin children Ali and Kiana instead received the award on her behalf, and read out a speech that was smuggled out of jail denouncing the “tyrannical and anti-women religious” government.

Iran’s Mohammadi slams ‘tyrannical’ regime in Nobel Prize speech from jail

Al Jazeera (10.12.2023) – Imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner Narges Mohammadi has denounced a “tyrannical and anti-women religious” government in Iran in an acceptance speech read by her children in the Norwegian capital.

Mohammadi, 51, was awarded the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize in October for her decades of activism despite numerous arrests by Iranian authorities and spending years behind bars. She has been held since 2021 in Tehran’s Evin prison.

Mohammadi has campaigned against the compulsory wearing of the hijab and the death penalty in Iran.

Her 17-year-old twins Ali and Kiana, both living in exile in France since 2015, received the award on her behalf on Sunday, delivering a speech she managed to smuggle out of her cell.

“I am a Middle Eastern woman, and come from a region which, despite its rich civilisation, is now trapped amid war, the fire of terrorism and extremism,” she said in her message.

“The Iranian people will dismantle obstruction and despotism through their persistence.”

Mohammadi has been arrested and convicted several times in recent decades, and her twin children have not seen their mother for almost nine years.

“When it comes to seeing her again, personally, I am very pessimistic,” Kiana told journalists at a news conference on Saturday.

“Maybe I will see her in 30 or 40 years, but I think I won’t see her again,” she said via a translator. “But that doesn’t matter because my mother will always live on in my heart and with my family.”

As they received the prize on her behalf at a packed Oslo City Hall, an empty chair and a large photograph of their mother stood at the centre of the stage.

“She [Mohammadi] has asked us to use this particular photograph, which expresses how she wants to lead her life, looking happy in colourful garments, exposing her hair and with a steady gaze towards us,” said Berit Reiss-Andersen, chairwoman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

“No punishment has stopped her,” Reiss-Andersen said. “When everything has been denied her, she still mobilises the willpower and courage to make a statement. This year’s [Nobel] Peace Prize recognises the brave women in Iran and around the world who fight for basic human rights and for an end to the discrimination and against segregation of women.”

The prize includes a cheque for 11 million Swedish crowns (about $1m).

‘Woman, life, freedom’

“I am an Iranian woman, a proud and honourable contributor to civilisation, who is currently under the oppression of a despotic religious government,” she said.

Mohammadi is one of the women spearheading the “Woman, Life, Freedom” uprising, which saw months-long protests across Iran triggered by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

Amini, an Iranian Kurdish woman, died on September 16, 2022, while being held by Iran’s religious police for allegedly breaching the Islamic Republic’s dress code for women.

The movement seeks the end of Iran’s imposition of a headscarf on all women and an end to the Muslim cleric-led government in Tehran.

“The mandatory hijab imposed by the government is neither a religious obligation or a cultural tradition, but rather a means of maintaining authority and submission throughout society,” Mohammadi said in her acceptance speech, read before the Norwegian royal family and foreign dignitaries.

Source: Wikimedia 

Mohammadi poses in this undated picture [File: Mohammadi family/Handout via Reuters]

She said Iran “is fundamentally alienating itself from its people”, denouncing government repression, the lack of an independent judicial system, propaganda and censorship, and corruption.

Amini’s death unleashed years of pent-up anger among Iranians over issues ranging from economic misery and discrimination against ethnic minorities to stricter social and political controls.

Women, including schoolgirls, took off and burned hijabs, revolting against laws obliging women to cover their hair and wear loose-fitting clothes during nationwide protests that were put down with deadly force.

Iran has called the protests Western-led subversion, accusing the Nobel committee of meddling and politicising the issue of human rights.

Mohammadi is currently carrying out a hunger strike in solidarity with the Baha’i community, Iran’s largest religious minority, according to her family.

“On International Human Rights Day, 10th of December, I will also go on a hunger strike in protest against violations of human rights in Iran and in solidarity with the hunger strike of Baha’i women prisoners in Evin Prison,” said a post on Mohammadi’s Instagram account.