Written By Aarav Kumar (Grade 10)
Tehran’s Evin prison doesn’t resemble a place from where one can seek to draw inspiration. In fact, one wouldn’t be wrong to assume the contrary. Its walls trap within their bounds political prisoners, reformers and so many more who dared oppose the theocratic regime of Iran. Yet, on the 6th of October, a ripple of hope swept not just the country, but also the world, and it all traced back to this very place. The source? Narges Mohammadi, the newest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
To better understand the magnitude of this prize, let us explore the general situation of women in Iran. Post-Islamic Revolution Iran is a strict theocracy that derives a significant portion of its penal code from Sharia law. Broadly speaking, women are forced to live their lives under draconian regulations, enforced by the so-called “Guidance Patrols”. Consequently, unrest has been bubbling ever since the revolution began in 1979, with occasional outbursts of public anger, leading to demonstrations and minor reforms. This is where we spot our protagonist- the second ever Iranian to win a Nobel Prize, Narges Mohammadi.
Born in 1972 in Zanjan, and educated at a university in Qazvin, Mohammadi had a knack for the unorthodox from an early age. She founded a hiking club, and wrote articles in a student newspaper, being imprisoned multiple times. After graduating, she joined reformist publications and eventually became associated with the Defenders of Human Rights Center, led by compatriot Shirin Ebadi, the only other Iranian to win a Nobel prize. Her efforts to combat the use of violence and torture against political prisoners, the death penalty and freedom of expression have led to her being convicted five times and being sentenced to a total of 31 years in prison. Nevertheless, despite the treatment meted out to her by the Iranian state, her passion is unwavering. In the wake of the Woman-Life-Freedom protests of September 2022, which were ignited by the fury of the public against the death of a Kurdish-Iranian woman, Mahsa Amini, in police custody, allegedly for donning a headscarf improperly, Mohammadi adopted a leading role even while incarcerated. She wrote guest essays, led protests and organised workshops for female inmates. For all her social and humanitarian contributions, however, her life has been one of immense sacrifice. She has been compelled to lead an existence isolated from her husband and children, who reside in France.
All for a distant vision of an Iran, where women are finally accorded the rights they deserve.
Narges Mohammadi serves as an inspiration to me, not only for her courage in standing up to an oppressive regime, but also because she shines as a beacon of hope and reform in a world that so direly needs these two qualities. Her prize is not only a recognition of her own works; it is a culmination of the struggles of thousands of Iranian women who dared to live as equals. To quote the lyrics of Baraye by Shervin Hajipour, the unofficial anthem of the Woman-Life-Freedom movement,
For a smiling face
For students, for the future
For this mandatory paradise.
Featured Image Courtesy – Britannica