Iranian human rights activist Narges Mohammadi has been awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for her work fighting against women’s oppression in Iran. Mohammadi will not be able to personally receive the prize because she is currently incarcerated in Iran for her protest activities. To share more about Mohammadi, the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement and the potential impact of the Nobel on Mohammadi’s imprisonment, we speak with Negar Mortazavi, an Iranian American journalist, host of The Iran Podcast and senior fellow at the Center for International Policy.
AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show with the Nobel Peace Prize. The chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee in Oslo announced this year’s winner earlier this morning.
BERIT REISS-ANDERSEN: Zan, Zendegi, Azadi. Woman, Life, Freedom. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2023 to Narges Mohammadi for her fight against the oppression of women in Iran and her fight to promote human rights and freedom for all. Her brave struggle has come with tremendous personal cost. Altogether, the regime has arrested her 13 times, convicted her five times and sentenced her to a total of 31 years in prison and 154 lashes. Ms. Mohammadi is still in prison as I speak. … This year’s Peace Prize also recognizes the hundreds of thousands of people who, in the preceding year, have demonstrated against the theocratic regime’s policies of discrimination and oppression targeting women.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Berit Reiss-Andersen, the head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee in Oslo, announcing that the imprisoned Iranian human rights activist Narges Mohammadi has been awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. The announcement comes just a year after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in Iranian police custody September 16th last year after she was arrested by Iran’s so-called morality police. Her death sparked months of protest in Iran and a severe crackdown by Iranian authorities.
To talk more about this year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate, we’re joined by Negar Mortazavi. She’s an Iranian American journalist, host of The Iran Podcast, senior fellow at the Center for International Policy.
We thank you so much for being with us, Negar. Can you talk about the significance of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize?
NEGAR MORTAZAVI: Thanks for having me, Amy. Yes, sure.
So, this doesn’t come as a surprise, I think, after one year of sustained protests by Iranian women and young girls and so many activists and ordinary citizens, really, putting their lives on the frontline, risking their lives, about 500 protesters losing their lives, protesting for more freedoms, and essentially in a — in part of a feminist uprising. And Narges Mohammadi is really one of the most deserved activists when it comes to the fight for rights for women, freedom, for all human rights. She has done a lot of campaigning against the death penalty, execution, and so many other parts of her long-term activism, and also, as it was discussed, at a great personal cost to herself and her family. So, I think it’s welcome news. This is going to energize, give new fresh energy to the activists and protest movement inside Iran.
AMY GOODMAN: So, tell us the story of Narges Mohammadi, how she is now in prison, how she got there.
NEGAR MORTAZAVI: Well, she’s a longtime activist, human rights activist, that has worked with different organizations, as you said, human rights defenders, which also the previous, the only Nobel Peace laureate from Iran, Shirin Ebadi, also worked with. And Narges has really continued sort of that line of activism. She has been very vocal against the death penalty, as I said. She’s launched many campaigns against, essentially changing the laws of execution and trying to abolish the death penalty in the Iranian legal system. She has fought for Iranian women’s rights, for political prisoners, for families, and herself has been a political prisoner, arrested many times, jailed to decades of prison in total, and also separated from her family. Her family has been pushed into exile, including her two children, and she’s been living separate from them, not being able to travel to see them. They live in exile, and they’re not able to travel to see her in Iran. And it’s just a great personal cost. But she’s been a longtime activist and has been detained, pressured and sentenced for her activism many times and currently also is serving a prison sentence.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, she has fought for women’s rights. She has also campaigned for the abolition of the death penalty and improvement of prison conditions. When is she expected to be out? And what kind of pressure do you think this puts on the Iranian regime?
NEGAR MORTAZAVI: Well, this will be, essentially, a two-edged sword. First, it will generate anger from the hard-liners in Iran, the Iranian regime, that, essentially, more and more attention is given to someone that they have been trying to portray as someone who is threatening national security and has been essentially arrested for these security charges, as they bring against these activists.
But then, at the same time, I think it will generate global solidarity, it will generate sympathy, and it would raise the costs for keeping someone so high-profile in prison, continuing to detain them, because the attempt is to try to silence people and try to sentence and pressure them in the dark, without much attention. And this, essentially, prize will bring even more attention, I would say, more power to Narges in her activism and other activists currently serving in prisons in Iran. And hopefully, at the end of the day, it will empower her and help her with this kind of global attention and solidarity that it will bring.
AMY GOODMAN: This comes 20 years after Shireen Ebadi, the women’s rights activist in Iran, was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Do you feel there’s been progress, Negar?
NEGAR MORTAZAVI: Well, I think if we look at it, essentially, looking at the long arc of history in a linear line, there has been. Iranian society has changed a lot. I mean, just looking at the protests of the past year, women and young girls really risking a lot — it comes at a deadly price for many of these protesters and activists. But I also think what we’re seeing, for example, the transformation of the Iranian public space when it comes to the issue of hijab, which is also something that Narges has been opposing, the mandatory hijab laws, we’ve seen tremendous change and transformation in the Iranian public space. I speak to sources, friends, journalists, activists inside Iran, and there are just so many women and girls right now courageously defying the mandatory hijab, this one discriminatory law against women, essentially, gaining their bodily autonomy, after the death of Mahsa Amini with the spark of that mass protest. So I think, overall, there has been steps backward, steps forward, but, in general, the women’s rights and the various rights movements have been pushing forward and making progress in pushing the state back and demanding more rights.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you, Negar Mortazavi, for being with us to talk about this year’s Nobel Peace Prize going to Narges Mohammadi, the Iranian human rights activist who is currently in prison. Negar is an Iranian American journalist, host of The Iran Podcast and senior fellow at the Center for International Policy.
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