Yesterday, December 10th, on the occasion of Human Rights Day, the international community came together to mark a significant moment in the ongoing struggle for human rights in Iran and beyond: the awarding of the Peace Nobel Prize 2023 to Narges Mohammadi. This award recognizes her relentless efforts against the oppression of women and girls in Iran and her broader contribution to the Women Life Freedom movement, her invaluable campaigning for the abolition of the death penalty in Iran, and her greater impact on the promotion of human rights for all Iranians.
Members of the Iranian diaspora of activists and human rights defenders, artists, former detainees, and family members of current detainees were also present in Oslo for the ceremony to celebrate in unison this key milestone, including Shirin Ebadi, 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Mehrangiz Kar, lawyer and human rights defender, and Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe, British-Iranian author who was imprisoned in Iran for six years until 2022.
Tragically, as we celebrate this moment, Narges Mohammadi remains detained within the walls of Evin prison in Iran. She has been serving multiple prison sentences imposed on her over the years for her work as a human rights defender and co-leader of the Defenders of Human Rights Center organization. Back in 2016, Narges Mohammadi was sentenced to a total of 16 years imprisonment based on several counts, including “membership in the [now banned] Step by Step to Stop the Death Penalty” group (also known as LEGAM). Her campaigning against the abolition of the death penalty in Iran, among other human rights advocacy activities, was similarly deemed as amounting to the criminal charges of ”taking part in assembly and collusion against national security” and “committing propaganda against the state.” In addition, for the past two years, Iranian authorities have subjected Narges Mohammadi to a piling number of prison sentences in addition to other cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishments, including lashes. These latest sentences also came as reprisal for her human rights work, including her public communications on sexual and gender-based violence against women prisoners to Javaid Rahman, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran and BBC World.
In her absence, her children, Ali and Kiana Rahmani, accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on her behalf, symbolizing both a moment of pride and a poignant reminder of the cost of Narges’ struggle. It has been years since Narges Mohammadi and her children have been able to see each other, sometimes going for months on end without any sort of contact whatsoever. Kiana and Ali read a statement written by their mother:
“I am one of the millions of Iranian women, proud and resilient, who stood up against injustice, repression, discrimination, and tyranny […] together with the civil society of women and men, I extend my hand with hope and enthusiasm toward all powers, movements, and persons privileging peace, human rights, and democracy.”
In an unprecedented moment for the Nobel Peace Prize, history was made as two leaders from the same human rights organization have now been honored with this esteemed award. Narges Mohammadi’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize comes 20 years after Shirin Ebadi, renowned Iranian lawyer and co-leader of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, was similarly recognized in 2003. Thus, today’s award stands as a tribute to the relentless efforts of all those striving to uphold human rights in Iran, over the past two decades and beyond, despite pervasive harassment and severe punishments. It also highlights that in 20 years since the Iranian human rights movements last took the stage in Oslo, the struggle in Iran persists in a state where civic space continues to be inexistent, where those who stifle the voices of women and girls, minorities and all Iranians act unabated, and where defending human rights means risking one’s safety and that of loved ones.
Let the Nobel Peace Prize serve as a celebration and a channel to amplify the voices of all Iranians advocating for human rights. The international community must actively support human rights defenders that Iranian authorities are trying to silence, must echo and amplify their voices, and must take concrete steps to support the rights of the peoples of Iran, including the right to justice and accountability. It is imperative that this pursuit goes beyond mere aspirations and moves toward tangible, realized outcomes.
Impact Iran coalition members have organized various initiatives to mark Human Rights Day and the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony:
|Today, Monday, December 11th, Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran released a newsletter detailing the UN Human Rights Committee’s assessment of Iran’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights per its recent review, drawing from the Center’s own findings, with a particular focus on impunity, the lack of free and fair trials, and the death penalty.
|Raphaël Chenuil Hazan, director of Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort (“ECPM”), moderated a roundtable on the protection of human rights defenders on Thursday 7th, December, organized by the French Agency of Development (Agence Française du Développement “AFD”) and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Raphaël also intervened at the AFD’s international conference “Human Rights and Sustainable Development” on Friday, 8th December. He participated in the roundtable “Support and protect human rights defenders” held on the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an event organized by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice.
|On Monday, December 11th, Human Rights Activists in Iran (“HRA”), with the legal support of UpRights, filed a submission to the UN International Independent Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran (“FFMI”). The submission “argues that the facts provided to the FFMI by HRA and two partner organizations should lead the FFMI to conclude that crimes against humanity, and in particular persecution on political and gender grounds, have taken place in the Islamic Republic of Iran since at least 16 September 2022.”
|On Saturday, 9th December, Iran Human Rights (IHRNGO) together with The Norwegian Human Rights Fund organized an event “Protecting human rights defenders in Iran.” The panel included IHRNGO Director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the interim director of Front Line Defenders Olive Moore and European Parliament Member Hannah Neumann
|On Wednesday, 6th December, Azadeh Pourzand, director of Siamak Pourzand Foundation (“SPF”) and member of Impact Iran’s secretariat, participated in a panel discussion focusing on the protest that started on September 16th 2022 following the death of Jina Mahsa Amini while in custody, the Women Life Freedom movement, human rights defenders, Narges Mohammadi and the Nobel Peace Prize. The event, titled “Songs that Changed the World,” was organized by the City of Oslo in cooperation with The Nobel Peace Center and The Norwegian Embassy.
|This first week of December 2023, KMMK-G released its interim report on the situation of human rights in Kurdistan for the period spanning from January to November 2023. The report focuses on the protests triggered by the death in custody of Jina Mahsa Amini and the Women Life Freedom Movement, and details how minorities in the province bore the brunt of the state crackdown.