Iran – Narges Mohammadi, Women’s & Human Rights Activist – Serving 10 Years in Prison +
Date: June 9, 2023
IRAN – NARGES MOHAMMADI WOMEN’S RIGHTS ACTIVIST – YEARS IN PRISON – LOSS OF FAMILY, CAREER & FREEDOM
June 2, 2023 – When Narges Mohammadi was just a little girl, her mother told her to never become political. The price of fighting the system in a country like Iran would be too high.
That warning has proved prescient.
Ms. Mohammadi, 51, Iran’s most prominent human rights and women’s rights activist, is now serving a 10-year jail sentence in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for “spreading anti-state propaganda.”
Her current imprisonment is hardly her first encounter with Iran’s harsh approach to dissent.
Over the past 30 years, Iran’s government has penalized her over and over for her activism and her writing, depriving her of most of what she holds dear — her career as an engineer, her health, time with her parents, husband and children, and her liberty.
The last time Ms. Mohammadi heard the voices of her 16-year-old twins, Ali and Kiana, was over a year ago. The last time she held her son and daughter in her arms was eight years ago. Her husband, Taghi Rahmani, 63, also a writer and prominent activist who was jailed for 14 years in Iran, lives in exile in France with the twins.
A family photo of Ms. Mohammadi with her children eight years ago, the last time she was physically with them. They’re now 16.
The suffering and loss she has endured have not dimmed her determination to keep pushing for change.
A small window in her cell in the women’s ward of Evin opens to a view of the mountains surrounding the prison in north Tehran. Spring brought more rain this year, and the rolling hills were covered with wildflowers.
“I sit in front of the window every day, stare at the greenery and dream of a free Iran,” Ms. Mohammadi said in a rare and unauthorized telephone interview from inside Evin in April. “The more they punish me, the more they take away from me, the more determined I become to fight until we achieve democracy and freedom and nothing less.”
The New York Times also interviewed Ms. Mohammadi over the telephone in April 2022, when she was granted a brief medical furlough from prison. In March and April of this year, The Times interviewed her by submitting questions in writing and in a surreptitious phone call from inside prison arranged through intermediaries.
Last month, the prison authorities revoked Ms. Mohammadi’s telephone and visitation rights because of statements she had issued from prison condemning Iran’s human rights violations, which were posted on her Instagram page, her family said.
PEN America awarded Ms. Mohammadi the Barbey Freedom to Write Award at its annual gala in New York last month. The United Nations named her one of the three recipients of its World Press Freedom Prize this year.
“Narges Mohammadi has been an indomitable voice against Iranian government repression even while being among its most persecuted targets,” said Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch from 1993 to 2022. “She has been unyielding despite repeated imprisonment, continuing her reporting on government abuse even from her prison cell. Her persistence and remarkable courage are a source of inspiration worldwide.”