The announcement of jailed Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi winning the Nobel Peace Prize has turned the international spotlight on women’s rights, especially in the Middle East.
Serving a sentence of ten years for “spreading propaganda against the State,” the 51-year-old Narges is currently lodged in Tehran’s Evin Prison, where she is fighting against the conditions inflicted on her and her fellow inmates. Last year, she published “White Torture,” a book on Iran’s use of solitary confinement and sensory deprivation as a means of torture.
Mohammadi recently organised a protest inside Evin prison to mark the first anniversary of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish woman arrested for dress code violations who died in the custody of Iran’s morality police. Mohammadi and three other women in the prison burnt their headscarves as a token of protest, according to a post on her Instagram page. After protests erupted over Amini’s death last year, Iranian authorities arrested over 20,000 activists, journalists and intellectuals in a bid to stamp out dissent. But ordinary Iranians continue to defy authorities, with reports circulating that another young woman, 16-year-old Armita Geravand, was in coma after a violent confrontation with the morality police last week.
Mohammadi is the 19th woman to win the Nobel. Born in Zanjan, Iran, she studied engineering, but became a journalist, working with reformist newspapers. She later joined the Centre for Human Rights Defenders, founded by Shirin Ebadi (who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003) and is currently its deputy head.
Mohammadi’s husband, Taghi Rahmani, who also spent many years in Iranian prisons as an anti-government activist, lives in exile in France with their 16 year old twin children, Kiana and Ali. Though they have been married for 24 years, the couple has spent just six years living together.