Peace prize winner Narges Mohammadi smuggles message out of cell

“Victory is not easy, but it is certain,” imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner and women’s rights activist Narges Mohammadi, said in a message smuggled out of her Tehran cell and published late Tuesday.

In the message, read out in French by her daughter, Kiana Rahmani, and posted on the official Nobel website, the 51-year-old activist and journalist expressed “sincere gratitude” to the Norwegian Nobel committee.

Mohammadi — who was awarded the prize in early October “for her fight against the oppression of women in Iran” — once again criticized the requirement for women in Iran to wear a headscarf and denounced Iranian authorities.

“The compulsory hijab is a means of control and repression imposed on society and on which the continuation and survival of this authoritarian religious regime depends,” she declared through her 17-year-old daughter, who has taken refuge in France along with her family.

She condemned “a regime that has institutionalized deprivation and poverty in society for 45 years”, adding that it was “built on lies, deception, cunning, and intimidation”.

Arrested 13 times, sentenced five times to a total of 31 years in prison and 154 lashes, and imprisoned again since 2021, Narges Mohammadi is one of the women spearheading the “Woman, Life, Freedom” uprising in Iran.

An ‘unstoppable process’

The movement, which has seen women take off their headdresses, cut their hair, and demonstrate in the streets, was sparked by the death of a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, last year after she was arrested in Tehran for failing to comply with the strict Islamic dress code.

On Saturday, Armita Garawand, a 17-year-old ethnic Kurd, died a week after she was declared “brain dead”. She had been hospitalized since October 1 after falling unconscious on the metro.

Rights groups have said the teen was critically wounded during an alleged assault by female members of Iran’s morality police. The authorities dispute this account, saying she suddenly fell ill.

“We, the people of Iran, demand democracy, freedom, human rights, and equality, and the Islamic Republic is the main obstacle in the way of realizing these national demands,” Mohammadi said in her message.

“We… are struggling to transition away from this religious authoritarian regime through solidarity and drawing on the power of a non-violent and unstoppable process in order to revive the honor and pride of Iran and human dignity and prestige for its people,” she continued in the message from Evin prison.

“Victory is not easy, but it is certain,” she concluded.

It was not disclosed how the message was smuggled out.

Kiana Rahmani, who read out the 10-minute message sent by Narges Mohammadi, and her twin brother Ali will represent their imprisoned mother at the award ceremony in Oslo on December 10, the Norwegian Nobel Institute announced Wednesday.

The peace prize has on five occasions honored jailed activists, including last year’s winner Ales Bialiatski of Belarus, whose prize was accepted by his wife, and Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo in 2010, whose chair remained empty.