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Life Without Iranian Activist Mohammadi ‘Constant Struggle’, Says Family

The family of Narges Mohammadi has said the imprisonment of the Iranian women’s rights activist is a “constant and daily struggle” as they prepare to receive the Nobel peace prize in Oslo on her behalf.

Her husband, Taghi Rahmani, who lives in exile in Paris with their two teenage children, said the only help comes from seeing her work internationally recognised and the solidarity she receives from around the world.

Mohammadi, who was named as the winner of the 2023 prize in October for her campaigning against the oppression of women in Iran and to promote human rights and freedom, has been sentenced to 31 years in jail for multiple charges including spreading propaganda against the state.

The 51-year-old, who is confined to Tehran’s Evin prison and prohibited from seeing or speaking to her husband and children, was last week banned from having any phone calls or visits, the Free Narges Mohammadi campaign said.

Speaking ahead of the Nobel peace prize award ceremony on Saturday – where Ali and Kiana Rahmani, both 17, will deliver a lecture on their mother’s behalf – her husband said the daily reality of life with Mohammadi being in jail with extremely limited contact is “very difficult”.

“Of the last 10 years that I have been outside of the country, Narges has been in jail for eight years of it. And every day is stressful, every day is very hard. But the reality is when you choose a path to promote human rights, it is a path that comes with costs. So you mentally prepare yourself for the high cost of this path,” he said.

“And she has accepted it and we have accepted it, but it certainly is not something that gets easier. It is a constant and daily struggle.”

He added: “The reality is the only thing that sometimes helps is to see the civil society globally express solidarity with her, institutions globally express solidarity with her and us seeing that the work she is doing is heard around the world.”

Mohammadi, a mathematician and physicist with a passion for singing and mountaineering, has remained active while in prison, publishing letters about the conditions of prisons and detention centres and warning of violence against prisoners.

Her recent hunger strike after officials refused to take her to hospital for urgent treatment without a hijab shows how seriously she takes the responsibility of the peace prize, said Rahmani.

“She went on hunger strike, forcing their hand to take her to the hospital without the hijab. It is a sign of how she sees this prize as increased responsibility towards carrying a very heavy load of being one of the symbols and one of the activists of the Woman, Life, Freedom movement.”

An exhibition named after the movement features texts written by Mohammadi from prison about significant events and memories from her life, including her separation from her children, then aged three, when she was imprisoned.

In one, she writes: “I encountered these words and concepts – ‘execution’, ‘torture’, ‘solitary confinement’ – at an early age; and fighting against violations of human rights became a mission for me from that time on.”

Campaigners from around the world have called on the Iranian government to release Mohammadi so that she can attend the Nobel ceremony in Oslo.

But while Rahmani said the campaign is positive because it increases attention to the plight of human rights activists in Iran, she would not leave Iran – even if she was permitted to – without being 100% sure that she could return. “She would not leave unless she is absolutely sure she can go back to the country and play the role that she has chosen to be a human rights activist who is effective. And she thinks that effectiveness is only possible within Iran.”

Although he said government pressure has silenced some of the protests in Iran, Rahmani believes more people are joining opposition to the regime every day. “The regime is constantly bleeding support and those who want fundamental change gaining support.”

But for the potential to bring about regime change and an end to oppression, Rahmani said it is essential that the women’s rights movement, labour and professional unions and all ethnic minorities come together. According to Rahmani, the majority of Iranians believe the path to change lies in street protest, not the government ballot box.

It is critical that change comes from within Iran, he said.

“The outside world can at best provide some boost of morale by basically paying more attention to the cause, putting more emphasis on what is going on in Iran. And of course, naturally, the immediate result of this week will be that Narges will have a bigger voice in promoting her agenda for human rights in Iran.”

But, he added: “All of this said, the real change happens in Iran. The expectation that things that happen outside will have that much impact inside the country is always overblown.”

Source: The Guardian