Nobel Peace Prize Winner. REUTERS./

By Nerijus Adomaitis


 – The Iranian people will ultimately overcome authoritarianism imposed by a government that has lost legitimacy and public support, Nobel Peace Prize winner Narges Mohammadi said from prison in a speech read by her children on Sunday.

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The Norwegian Nobel committee in October awarded the prize to Mohammadi, 51, for her non-violent fight “against oppression of women in Iran” and the promotion of human rights for all, in a rebuke to Tehran’s theocratic leaders.

Her 17-year-old twins Kiana and Ali Rahmani collected the prize, a gold medal and diploma, at a ceremony in Oslo’s City Hall attended by several hundred guests. The prize includes a cheque for 11 million Swedish crowns (about $1 million).

In her speech, sent from Iran‘s notorious Evin prison, Mohammadi said continued resistance and non-violence were the best strategies to bring about change.

“The Iranian people, with perseverance, will overcome repression and authoritarianism. Have no doubt, this is certain,” she said in her speech read in French.

The women’s rights advocate is serving multiple sentences on charges including spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic after her last arrest in November 2021.

“I write this message from behind the high, cold walls of a prison,” Mohammadi said, adding that her life and lives of many activists in Iran had been a constant struggle “to stay alive”.

Mohammadi was symbolically represented on stage in Oslo by her portrait and an empty chair, highlighting that she is among only a handful of laureates to be prevented from attending the ceremony since the award’s 1901 inception.

She was awarded the prize just over a year following 22-year-old Mahsa Amini’s death in the custody of Iranian morality police after allegedly violating rules related to the hijab, an Islamic headscarf.

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Amini’s death unleashed years of pent-up anger among Iranians over issues ranging from economic misery and discrimination against ethnic minorities to stricter social and political controls.

Women, including schoolgirls, took off and burned hijabs, revolting against laws obliging women to cover their hair and wear loose-fitting clothes during nationwide protests that were put down with deadly force.

“We believe that the mandatory hijab imposed by the government is neither a religious obligation or a cultural tradition, but rather a means of maintaining control and submission throughout society,” Mohammadi said.

Iran has called the protests Western-led subversion, accusing the Nobel committee of meddling and politicizing the issue of human rights.

The protest movement, which adopted the slogan – Woman, Life Freedom – has significantly contributed to the expansion of civil resistance in Iran, and went on despite severe government repression, Mohammadi said in her speech.

“The reality is that the Islamic Republic regime is at its lowest level of legitimacy and popular social support,” she said.

“Now is the time for international civil society to support Iranian civil society, and I will exert all my efforts in this regard,” Mohammadi added.

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded annually on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who founded the awards in his 1895 will.

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(Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis, editing by Terje Solsvik and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)