Narges Mohammadi by Lucy Popescu

Lucy Popescu

Narges Mohammadi

 

It’s hard to believe that I first wrote about the Iranian writer, journalist and human rights defender Narges Mohammadi in these pages in June 2012. I featured her case again in March 2016 and September 2020. Mohammadi was first arrested in 1998 for her criticism of the Iranian government and was imprisoned for a year. She has spent most of the past fifteen years in detention for speaking out about human rights violations and the oppression of women, as well as campaigning for the abolition of the death penalty. Mohammadi is currently being held in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison and continues her activism. Her resistance in the face of unspeakable hardship is extraordinary. She was deservedly awarded the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize.

On 15 January, it was reported that Mohammadi had been sentenced to an additional fifteen months in prison on charges of ‘spreading propaganda against the regime’. On completion of her prison sentence, she will be subjected to two years of exile outside Tehran and neighbouring provinces, and a two-year ban on travelling abroad, using a smartphone and membership of political groups.

The latest conviction is the result of a series of investigations into Mohammadi’s activism in prison that the authorities began in January 2023. Her ‘misdemeanours’ include the publication of Shekanje Sefid, a collection of twelve interviews originally published in Sweden in 2020 that Mohammadi conducted with her fellow detainees, recording their experiences. In the UK edition, White Torture, published two years later (in a translation by Amir Rezanezhad), Mohammadi wrote that in November 2021 she was sentenced to sixty-four days in solitary confinement because of the book’s publication. The central subject of her interviews is the routine use of solitary confinement, which is considered a form of torture, in Iranian prisons.

According to her family, Mohammadi was convicted in absentia by Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court on 19 December following an unfair trial. A few months earlier, she had been given an additional one-year sentence after being convicted of ‘spreading propaganda against the regime’. She also endures other forms of harassment. In November 2023, the prison authorities would not transfer her to hospital to receive vital medical care because she refused to wear a headscarf. 

Much of the harassment of Mohammadi is due to her work for the Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC), which Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi cofounded with four other lawyers. The organisation campaigns for human rights and political reform, and represents political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in legal proceedings. Mohammadi was first arrested on account of her activities with the DHRC in 2010. On 26 September 2011, she was sentenced to eleven years in prison for ‘acting against national security’, ‘spreading propaganda against the system’ and ‘membership of an illegal organisation’. She remained free on bail. The following spring the sentence was reduced on appeal to six years. In April 2012, she was summoned to prison to serve her sentence. She was released on bail a few months later following a severe decline in her health. 

On 5 May 2015, Mohammadi was arrested again and detained in Evin Prison, this time on account of her activities with Legam, a group she had founded to campaign for the abolition of the death penalty. In May 2016, the Revolutionary Court convicted her of ‘founding and running an illegal organisation’, ‘assembly and collusion against national security’ and ‘spreading propaganda against the system’. She received a sixteen-year prison sentence.

Mohammadi was released in October 2020 after serving five and a half years. In May 2021, she was sentenced to thirty months in prison and eighty lashes after being convicted on several trumped-up charges, including ‘spreading propaganda against the regime’, ‘defamation’ and ‘rebellious conduct while incarcerated’. Mohammadi believes that the conviction against her was in retaliation for a complaint she made against the director of Evin Prison. She did not present herself to the authorities to serve her sentence, insisting that the conviction was unjust. She was eventually arrested on 16 November 2021 while attending a memorial service in the city of Karaj for Ebrahim Ketabdar, who was shot and killed by security forces during a protest in November 2019. She has been in prison ever since.

Readers might like to send appeals condemning the recent sentencing of the writer, human rights defender and Nobel laureate Narges Mohammadi to an additional fifteen months in prison, urging the authorities to quash all outstanding sentences against Mohammadi, expressing serious concern about Mohammadi’s deteriorating health and seeking assurances that she will be given unconditional access to medical care pending her release.

Appeals to be addressed to:

Dr Seyed Mahdi Hosseini Matin

Chargé d’affaires

Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran

6 Princes Gate

London SW7 1PT 

Fax: +44 20 7589 4440

Email: info@iran-embassy.org.uk

 

Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei

Chief Justice of Iran

c/o Public Relations Office

Number 4, Dead end of 1 Azizi, Vali Asr Street

Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

 

President Ebrahim Raisi

Office of the President

Pasteur Street, Pasteur Square

Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

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