Barely a day after she won the Nobel Peace Prize, imprisoned human rights activist Narges Mohammadi has been targeted by ultra-hardline media in Iran.
Mohammadi has been arrested and sentenced around a dozen times in the past decade or so. Still, she has been unrelenting in her fight for democracy and human rights in Iran. She was in prison when the Nobel committee announced her as winner on Friday.
On Saturday (first day of the week in Iran) ultra hardline dailies, including those affiliated with the IRGC, attacked Mohammadi in what seemed to be a concerted effort.
“Criminals Award a Separatist, pro-Sanction Iranian,” headlined the IRGC-affiliated Javan. The daily, Jam-e Jam, owned by the state broadcaster, was slightly subtler: “For Nobel, Against the nation.” Farhikhtegan, another morning paper firmly advocating the regime’s hardline stance, had even a shorter headline: “Nobel for Shamelessness.”
The attack-lines were, of course, not new.
The Islamic Republic and its mouthpieces have always tried to blame the ‘enemy’ for all the country’s ills. A constant in the narrative is the ‘sellout activist’ – who takes money and guidance from the West and acts against the interests of her own ‘people’.
Narges Mohammadi has spent the better part of the last decade in prison. In total, she’s been sentenced to 31 years in prison and 154 lashes. She hasn’t been able to see her children since 2015, when they migrated to France with their father, political activist and former political prisoner, Taghi Rahmani.
Speaking shortly after his wife was named the 2023 Nobel Laureate, Rahmani said the award had been given to her “as a symbol” of the Women Life Freedom movement.”
The Nobel Committee said it was awarding the Peace Prize to Mohammadi “for her fight against the oppression of women in Iran and her fight to promote human rights and freedom for all.”
The announcement was met by near universal glee, from the White House to the streets of Tehran. The regime, however, was quick to denounce the prize and offer its alternative reality.
“The worthiest symbol of world peace was Qassem Soleimani,” declared the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic, exhibiting once more the unbridgeable gulf between those who rule over and those who live in Iran.
Soleimani was a notorious military and intelligence operative who created and nursed various militant groups in the Middle East until he was killed in a US drone strike in 2020.
Mohammdi is only the second Iranian to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi won it exactly twenty years ago, in 2003. Ebadi founded the Defenders of Human Rights Centre in 2001. Mohammadi served as the Centre’s deputy head and spokesperson.
Ebadi was one of the first Iranian figures to congratulate Mohammadi: “She truly deserved this prize. She has dedicated his life to fighting for freedom, equality, and protecting human rights. And today… she is behind bars.”