By Firouzeh Nabavi
The 2023 Nobel Peace Prize winner Narges Mohammadi, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence in Iran, was absent from the recent ceremony held in her honor in Oslo: Her Nobel Prize was placed on an empty chair between her 17-year-old twins, Ali and Kiana Rahmani, who accepted it on her behalf, accompanied by their father Taqi Rahmani.
Attending the ceremony was the Iranian-born President of the Norwegian Parliament, Masud Gharahkhani, who hosted a reception the next day for prominent Iranian guests who had traveled to Norway for the occasion. They included: the Nobel laureate, lawyer and former judge Shirin Ebadi; the French-Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani; the British actress and activist Nazanin Boniadi; and the French-Iranian graphic novelist and film director Marjane Satrapi.
“Honored to meet the family of peace prize winner Narges Mohammadi,” Gharahkhani wrote in a post on X the following day. “@UnitedForNarges in the Norwegian parliament. Strong message from prison to my parliament and for all those fighting for democracy and human rights. And many freedom fighters like @Golshifteh @NazaninBoniadi”
Honored to meet the family of peace prize winner Narges Mohammadi. @UnitedForNarges in the Norwegian parliament. Strong message from prison to my parliament and for all those fighting for democracy and human rights. And many freedom fighters like @Golshifteh @NazaninBoniadi pic.twitter.com/QGstOHlOtH
— Masud Gharahkhani (@MasudGh) December 11, 2023
Gharahkhani has served as the President of the Norwegian National Assembly – or Storting
— since December 31, 2021. He is the first immigrant to head the Presidium, the Storting’s highest administrative body, and as President of the Norwegian Parliament, ranks second only to the monarch in the state hierarchy.
He has been an outspoken supporter of women’s rights in Norway but also in his homeland, Iran. Gharahkhani’s forceful reaction to the death of Mahsa Amini in September 2022 led Norway’s ambassador to Iran to be summoned by Iran’s Foreign Ministry. Mahsa Amini died while in the custody of the Morality Police in Tehran, having been arrested for improperly wearing the hijab.
Gharahkhani’s reaction, which he posted in Persian on Twitter (which is now X), was immediate:
مسعود قرهخوانی، رئیس پارلمان نروژ در ویدیویی به زبان فارسی درباره مرگ مهسا امینی و اعتراضات سراسری به آن واکنش نشان داد
آقای قرهخوانی گفته است انقلاب ایران قرار بود به مردم آزادی و دموکراسی بیاورد و پول نفت آن خرج مردم شود اما نتیجه آن شد مرگ مهسا امینی و جوانان دیگری مانند او pic.twitter.com/aXf4uSixSR
— BBC NEWS فارسی (@bbcpersian) September 21, 2022
A year later, to mark the anniversary of Amini’s death, he posted another message, in Persian, on X:
“One year since Mahsa Jina Amini was killed after being detained by the Iranian regime’s morality police. We will never forget! Keep fighting and supporting the movement: Women. Life. Freedom. My message in Farsi. #WomenLifeFreedom
One year since Mahsa Jina Amini was killed after being detained by the Iranian regime’s morality police. We will never forget! Keep fighting and supporting the movement: Women. Life. Freedom. My message in Farsi. #WomenLifeFreedom pic.twitter.com/rIeNWZ5ouI
— Masud Gharahkhani (@MasudGh) September 14, 2023
Gharahkhani also speaks out regularly against terrorism and extremism in his public appearances.
On a visit to Ground Zero in New York in November, he told the Norwegian daily newspaper Dagsavisen that he believed the fight against extremism “must never become just a campaign here and now, but a fight we all wage continuously.”
“For me, the Ground Zero visit is an important reminder that we must stand up against extremism and hate speech,” he added. “There are threats to our democratic values which we must never take for granted.”
Masud Gharahkhani was born in Tehran in 1982 and emigrated to Norway with his family at the age of 5. His father had been a trade unionist in Iran, but when they moved to Norway both of his parents started out as strawberry pickers.
His mother would go on to become a teacher, and his father found employment in local government. Gharahkhani himself graduated as a radiologic technologist from the Gjøvik University College. and has been working at the Blefjell Hospital in Norway.
A member of the Norwegian Labor Party from the city of Drammen, he was first elected as deputy representative to the parliament in 2009. He received a standing ovation for his speech about his journey from Iran to Norway at the Labor Party’s national convention in 2011.
During the 2017 parliamentary elections, he won a seat as representative of the Buskerud electoral district. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Norway’s prime minister at the time, called him “an extraordinary political talent” and “a success story in Norwegian society.”
As the newly elected speaker of parliament at the end of 2021, Gharahkhani indicated that he wanted to use his position to strengthen Norwegian democracy, the welfare state, gender equality and civil freedom – values which, he pointed out, were lacking in his motherland, Iran.
Shortly after his election, he was praised for his openness and tolerance after publicly criticizing an elementary school in his hometown of Drammen following an incident during which teachers had banned their pupils from wearing traditional Christmas costumes at an annual Christmas play.
Gharahkhani is a strong supporter of immigrant integration, insisting that immigrant children must learn to speak Norwegian, which he views as an absolute prerequisite for succeeding in Norwegian society.
Gharahkhani is married to Saloumeh “Sally” Abbasian and they have a son.