Nobel Peace Prize winner Narges Mohammadi will go on a new hunger strike from her prison cell in Iran as the prize is awarded in Oslo on Sunday in her absence, her family said Saturday. Mohammadi, who has campaigned against the compulsory wearing of the hijab and the death penalty in Iran, will go on hunger strike “in solidarity” with the Baha’i religious minority, her brother and husband told a press conference in the Norwegian capital on the eve of the Nobel award ceremony.
“She is not here with us today, she is in prison and she will be on a hunger strike in solidarity with a religious minority but we feel her presence here,” her younger brother, Hamidreza Mohammadi, said in a brief opening statement. The 51-year-old activist’s husband, Taghi Rahmani, went on to explain that the strike was a gesture of solidarity with the Baha’i religious minority, two of whose jailed leading figures, Mahvash Sabet and Fariba Kamalabadi, have started refusing food.
“She said that ‘I will start my hunger strike on the day that I am being granted this prize, perhaps then the world will hear more about it’,” he explained. Iran’s largest religious minority, the Baha’i community is the target of discrimination in many areas of society, according to its representatives.
Mohammadi already went on a hunger strike for several days at the beginning of November to obtain the right to be transferred to hospital without covering her head. She was awarded the Nobel prize in October “for her fight against the oppression of women in Iran”. Arrested 13 times, sentenced five times to a total of 31 years in prison and 154 lashes, Mohammadi has spent much of the past two decades in and out of jail.
Narges Mohammadi is one of the women spearheading the “Woman, Life, Freedom” uprising, which included months-long protests across Iran triggered by the September 2022 death in custody of Mahsa Amini, 22, who had been arrested for allegedly flouting the Islamic republic’s strict dress rules for women. Mahsa Amini’s parents and brother—who were due to receive the Sakharov Prize, awarded posthumously to the young woman at a parallel ceremony in France on Sunday—have been banned from leaving Iran, their lawyer in France told AFP on Saturday.
‘In my heart’
Detained since 2021 in Tehran’s Evin prison, Mohammadi will be represented at the Oslo ceremony by her 17-year-old twin children, Ali and Kiana, who have been living in exile in France since 2015 and have not seen their mother for almost nine years. They both don’t know if they will ever see her alive again, but while Ali has faith, Kiana is doubtful.
“The cause of ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’, freedom in general and democracy are worth sacrificing yourself for and giving your life for, because in the end these three things are priceless”, Kiana told reporters. “As for seeing her again one day, personally I’m rather pessimistic,” she added, noting that the added attention of her mother receiving the Nobel prize would likely make the Iranian authorities curtail her freedom further.
“Maybe I’ll see her in 30 or 40 years, but if not, I don’t think I’ll ever see her again, but that’s OK because my mother will always be with me in my heart and with my family”. On the other hand, Ali said he was “very, very optimistic”, even if it probably won’t happen “in two, five or ten years”.
“I believe in our victory”, he asserted, before quoting his mother: “victory is not easy but it is certain”. On Sunday, at the Nobel prize ceremony in Oslo, attended by the Norwegian royal family and other dignitaries, the twins will read a speech that their mother managed to smuggle out of her jail cell.—AFP