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Iran Stops Mahsa Amini’s Family From Travelling to Receive Human Rights Prize

Iran has banned Mahsa Amini’s family from travelling to France to receive the EU’s top human rights prize on her behalf, as the family of the imprisoned Nobel peace prize winner Narges Mohammadi said she had begun a new hunger strike before Sunday’s award ceremony in Oslo.

In Mohammadi’s absence, her 17-year-old twin children, Ali and Kiana, instead collected the award on her behalf, reading out a speech their mother smuggled out of her cell.

The two high-profile award ceremonies, taking place days apart in Norway and France, have recast a spotlight on the deep costs borne by those who battle for women’s rights in Iran.

Amini, the 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman whose death in 2022 in police custody set off months of protests that rocked Iran, was awarded the Sakharov prize for freedom of thought in October.

Before Tuesday’s ceremony, members of her family, including her father and brother, were stopped on Saturday as they attempted to board a flight to France, the family’s lawyer in France, Chirinne Ardakani, told AFP. Their passports were confiscated despite them having a valid visa to travel, she added.

The months-long protests in Iran were met with a heavy-handed crackdown by authorities, resulting in the deaths of more than 500 people and the arrests of nearly 20,000, according to human rights groups in the country. The protests have since been largely suppressed.

Ardakani said authorities in the country “have never been so mobilised to prevent the families of the victims from speaking to the international community”.

Reports said only the family’s lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, would be able to travel to receive the award – described by the EU as its highest tribute to human rights work.

Among those who called for Amini’s family to be allowed to travel to the ceremony, which will honour Amini as well as the Woman, Life, Freedom movement set off by her death, was the European parliament president, Roberta Metsola.

“Their place next Tuesday is at the European parliament in Strasbourg to receive the Sakharov prize, with the brave women of Iran,” she wrote on social media. “The truth cannot be silenced.”

Metsola’s call came as the family of Mohammadi, one of the women spearheading the Women, Life, Freedom uprising, said the Nobel peace prize winner would be on a hunger strike as the Nobel ceremony got under way on Sunday.

On an Instagram page maintained by her friends, a post noted that the strike would protest against the violations of human rights in Iran and be carried out in solidarity with members of the Bahá’í faith, a religious minority that faces persecution and discrimination under Iran’s conservative Islamic theocracy.

Her family confirmed the news as they arrived in Oslo. “She is not here with us today,” her younger brother, Hamidreza Mohammadi, told reporters. “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 husband, Taghi Rahmani, explained that the protest was being carried out in solidarity with two leading figures of the community who were also on a hunger strike. “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’,” Rahmani said.

On Sunday, an empty chair and a large photograph of Mohammadi sat centre stage at Oslo’s city hall as the ceremony got under way.

Her children, Ali and Kiana, collected the award on her behalf, delivering a speech she had managed to smuggle out of her prison cell.

“I am an Iranian woman, a proud and honourable contributor to civilisation, who is currently under the oppression of a despotic religious government,” she said.

“The Iranian people will dismantle obstruction and despotism through their persistence,” Mohammadi added. “Have no doubt – this is certain.”

Her son, Ali Rahmani, noted that his mother’s “body is behind bars but her pen and thoughts have burst through the walls and reached us.”

He continued: “She and the Iranian people have never been more oppressed than now. But never has their voice resonated so strongly in the world. Let us continue to spread the reverberation so that Narges Mohammadi and the Iranian people will one day be able to break their chains.”

Mohammadi has been held in Tehran’s Evin prison since 2021. Last month, she went on another hunger strike to obtain the right to obtain medical care 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, the prominent activist has spent much of the past two decades in and out of jail and has not seen her children, now based in France, for more than eight years.

Source: The Guardian