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Narges Mohammadi’s 2023 Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

December 13, 2023 IN WIP
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Narges Mohammadi’s 2023 Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech
Your Majesties,
Your Royal Highnesses,
Excellencies,
Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I express my gratitude to the honorable members of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee for awarding the
prestigious and honorable Nobel Peace Prize to the glorious movement of ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ and to a
woman, a human rights defender, and a democracy advocate, who is imprisoned. Your meaningful and
powerful support is appreciated.
I am confident that the undeniable impact of the Nobel Peace Prize on the recent powerful movement of
Iranians for peace, freedom, and democracy will go beyond the strength of individual struggle and resistance,
and this is hopeful and inspiring for me.
I am one of the millions of proud and resilient Iranian women who have risen against oppression, suppression,
discrimination, and tyranny. I remember the unnamed and courageous women who have lived a life of
resistance in various areas of relentless oppression.
I write this message from behind the tall and cold walls of the prison. I am a Middle Eastern woman, belonging
to a region that, despite having a rich civilization, is now trapped amid war, the fire of terrorism, and extremism.
I am an Iranian woman, a proud and honorable contributor to civilization, who is currently under the
oppression of a despotic religious government. I am a woman prisoner who, in enduring deep and soul-crushing
suffering resulting from the lack of freedom, equality, and democracy, has recognized the necessity of their
existence and has found faith.
In the midst of the flames of violence and the perpetuation of tyranny, our issue for years has been more
about survival than the improvement of our “quality of life.” Essentially, it has become about the possibility of
staying alive, survival, and “living” in a world where human life is exposed, without any barrier or shield, to the
power of arrogant authoritarian governments and remains helpless against everything.
In the current world, there is a significant and alienating gap between these two situations. We are in the
struggle to stay alive. This is our “reality of life.” We live the struggle consciously and voluntarily, taking steps
that may not guarantee a safe life.
Tyranny is an endless and boundless malevolence, the grim shadow of which has for a long time cast over
millions of displaced human beings. Tyranny turns life into death, blessing into lament, and comfort into
torment. Tyranny is the subjugator of humanity, will, and dignity. Tyranny is the other side of the coin of war.
The intensity of both is devastating. One directly with the destructive flames of visible devastation, and the
other insidiously and deceitfully tearing apart “humanity.”
Giving up one’s life in the valleys of terror and the insecurity of tyranny is like living the frantic life of an
unarmed, defenseless human under the fire of missiles and bullets.
Tyranny and war both create a multitude of victims. The victims of tyranny and war are not only those who
have lost their lives. Both challenge the humanity and dignity of survivors, observers, and those who remain
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silent. Who can claim that in this struggle, humanity remains?
The People, the determining factor in the democracy equation in Iran.
Respected audience,
With this introduction, I want to revisit the moment of announcing the Nobel Peace Prize and the echoes of
Ms. Anderson’s statement. To the beautiful and meaningful slogan of the Iranian people’s movement: “woman.”
The opening sentence of my Nobel Peace Prize was the name of the Iranian people’s movement, and the focal
point of my analysis and strategy is “the people” and society.
The complex equation of fundamental changes and developments aimed at achieving democracy, freedom,
and equality in Iran is contingent on the determining factor of “the people,” although other fixed and variable
parameters also play a crucial role in this equation and should not be overlooked.
The people of Iran have strived for the realization of democracy, freedom, and equality. They have
consistently emphasized non-violent protests and civil resistance in their pursuit of these demands, seizing
every opportunity to build a society abundant with peace, prosperity, and development. However, the world
witnesses a relentless and ruthless government standing against the civil demands of the people for freedom
and equality, employing suppression, massacres, executions, and imprisonment. Democracy, due to its inherent
capacity for freedom and equality, has been a fundamental demand of Iranian society, and almost unanimously,
the civil society calls for fundamental changes and a transition to democracy as a component of the future
political system of Iran.
Islamic Republic: A tyrannical and anti-women religious government
In the political arena, the Islamic Republic blocks any political movement in society, restricts political
opportunities, and suppresses both collective and individual actions. The Islamic Republic fundamentally
alienates itself from being responsive to “the people.”
Elections and voting, due to an uncompromising approach, a rigid structure, non-democratic laws, and opaque
and fraudulent mechanisms and procedures, are irrelevant to the majority of the people in Iran. The Islamic
Republic has reduced the coefficient of political participation to zero, severely suppresses independent civil
organizations, and strives to leave no space for freedom beyond its interference and supervision. The
government systematically deploys discrimination based on religion, gender, and ethnicity to target “others” in
its agenda.
In the judicial realm, it must be explicitly stated that the judicial power of the Islamic Republic is a
manifestation of injustice and tyranny, a violator of human rights, and the independence of the judicial branch
is an impossible matter since the head of this branch is directly appointed by the Supreme Leader, and
revolutionary courts are under the control of security and military institutions. What is not achievable in this
judicial system is “justice.”
Furthermore, in the cultural domain, the government has endeavored to sustain ideological machinery and
propaganda organizations at exorbitant costs to maintain ideological acceptance and continuous extensive
propaganda in the society. Despite all this, the government’s ideological machinery has lost its functionality,
challenging the legitimacy of the government.
In the economic arena, the system supports rentierism, cronyism, and plunder by handing over monopolies and
special privileges to groups loyal to itself, turning the economic sphere into a realm of plunder and oppression.
Systematic corruption, inefficiency, mismanagement, embezzlement, and looting of public assets have plunged
society into poverty, deep inequalities, unemployment, and other disarray. The severe consequences of these
policies put the human life of the people and their dignity and status at risk of collapse and destruction. The
regime’s response to protesters has always been to create cases, arrests, imprisonment, and bullets. The
events of November 2019 bear witness to this claim.
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In summary, I want to emphasize that the Islamic Republic has jeopardized many of the rights outlined in the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights and treaties in all dimensions of people’s lives, including political,
economic, social, cultural, and environmental aspects.
The movement “Woman, Life, Freedom”; an accelerator of the democratic process
In such circumstances, the widespread movement “Woman, Life, Freedom” emerged in the continuation of
historical struggles, taking shape with the agency of Iranian women, following the killing of Mahsa Amini – Zhina
Amini, and accompanied by extensive support from men and youth in society.
In this context, especially Iranian women, confronting the religious authoritarian regime face the capability and
opportunity to challenge cultural and institutional patterns, becoming a powerful force in the struggle and
resistance, outlining the vision of governance and democracy in the future of Iran.
Women have achieved this influential position through 45 years of experience with discrimination and
oppression in all private and public spheres, as well as “sexual and gender apartheid,” counteracted by their
tireless resistance.
The movement “Woman, Life, Freedom,” with the overarching idea of the “transition from religious tyranny,”
expedited the process of achieving democracy, freedom, and equality in Iran, giving clarity and significance to
the historical demands of the Iranian people. This movement has contributed significantly to the expansion of
civil resistance in Iran, encompassing movements of women, youth, students, teachers, workers, human rights,
environmentalists, and more. Essentially, this movement is change-oriented and fundamentally about
foundational life.
This movement functions as a subset of “contentious politics” grounded in the trajectory of civil struggles,
social movements, and the relentless efforts of the people to achieve a civil society. Despite being currently
under severe government suppression, it remains alive and dynamic.
The intensified oppression of women through the “mandatory hijab,” a disgraceful government policy, will not
lead us to inaction or conformity because we believe that the “mandatory hijab” imposed by the government is
not a religious obligation or a cultural pattern but rather a means of maintaining authority and submission
throughout society. The abolition of the “mandatory hijab” is equivalent to the abolition of all roots of religious
tyranny and breaking the chains of authoritarian oppression.
The reality is that the Islamic Republic regime is at the lowest level of legitimacy and popular social support,
situated in a position of unstable equilibrium, and the emergence of any element as a catalyst will mark the
final form of opposition policies and the “transition from religious tyranny.” This is because belief in democracy
and human rights is not limited to intellectual matters among Iranian intellectuals but has been actualized in
collective and individual actions across the entire society.
Strategy for Strengthening Civil Society and Ensuring Human Rights in Iran
Respected audience,
The powerful and widespread movement of the Iranian people requires the growth, expansion, and
empowerment of the institutions of civil society and the development of a network structure to mobilize the
forces of the movement.
On the other hand, civil society is the essence of democracy, and without a strong civil society, the future of
democracy in Iran will not be guaranteed. Iranian civil society has valuable historical experiences and, despite
severe suppression by the government, has continued to survive in various forms. Now is the time for the
strengthening and support of the international civil society towards the civil society in Iran, and I will exert all
my efforts in this regard.
The realization of democracy is contingent upon the realization of human rights. Human rights have reached
the level of historical awareness among the people of Iran and constitute the focal point of the activities of
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many movements, currents, and groups. It has the capacity and power to create widespread national solidarity
and coalitions.
The support of global public opinion through reputable international media will undoubtedly have significant
effects on the continuity and strengthening of the democratic movement of the Iranian people.
Respected audience,
Undoubtedly, the people of Iran will continue their struggle, but in the current globalized world, the role of
governments, global civil society, including international organizations and institutions, media, and independent
non-governmental civil organizations is undeniable.
I deeply appreciate the support of international human rights organizations, as well as women’s civil
organizations, artists, the global PEN network of writers, intellectuals, and global media for their impactful
support of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement.
However, the reality is that governments and international organizations have not shown the necessary and
deserving serious attention, practical coherence, and a proactive approach to supporting the triumph of the
Iranian people. The policies and strategies of Western governments have been shallower than necessary to
authentically empower the will of the Iranian people to achieve their goals, making democracy more achievable
in this part of the world and ensuring peace.
Human rights do not happen in a vacuum, while human rights in Iran are under the multilateral pressures of
powerful oppressive forces. Western governments should not postpone democracy and human rights by
adopting strategies focused on the continuation of the Islamic Republic’s rule. It is expected that the global
civil society will provide more serious support to the Iranian people’s efforts for democratic transition and non-
violent struggle to achieve peace, democracy, and human rights, without delaying further.
Strategy for the Formation of International Will and Consensus
Respected audience,
The recognition of the right to national sovereignty and the “right to determine the destiny” of peoples and
nations, after the heavy cost of wars, has been a respectable and highly progressive chapter for human
existence and significant progress in safeguarding peace. However, the world witnesses, and history attests,
that the issue of aggression and violation by rulers against their people’s own “fundamental rights” remains a
significant and unresolved problem, endangering global peace and causing suffering to humanity.
The adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations and the existing
mechanisms, treaties, and international and European courts have not prevented the persistent and brutal
suppression, destruction of lives, violation of the fundamental rights of people, torture, discrimination, and
oppression by rulers against their defenseless populations. In the current world, economics, religion, and
governance in many nations are under the sway of powerful interest groups with entrenched histories, and the
newly formed institution of human rights is under pressure from these institutions.
The world witnesses that no document, to the extent of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has been
violated. What is the solution? Has the time not come for the world to urgently find a unified and coherent
solution?
In my belief, the globalization of peace and human rights is more fundamental and effective than the
globalization of any other matter.
The reality is that the consequences and repercussions of human rights violations, which are the cost of
maintaining authoritarian governments, do not remain within geographical borders. The severe and irreparable
consequences of migration, displacement, the emergence of wars, unrest, military interventions, and the
creation of a conducive environment for the growth of terrorist groups and extremism, such as the wide-
ranging consequences of interstate warfare, spread throughout the entire world.
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It seems that in the globalized world, either human rights will become respected internationally, or human
rights violations will continue to spread across state borders. I will contribute my share alongside human rights
activists and defenders to the global realization of human rights.
Respected audience,
I am honored to be the second recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize from the proud country of Iran, alongside
my esteemed mentor and colleague, Ms. Shirin Ebadi. Iran, with its ancient and illustrious civilization, has
always been a symbol of elevation and progress. We are the inheritors of this civilization and its values.
Our history, cultural heritage, and civilization are not only our past connections but also shape our future and
provide a foundation for us to lean on together. We stand for democracy and human rights, and this is not
strange for a resilient and hardworking people who have been pioneers in advocating for limiting government
power, seeking freedom, and pursuing justice in the region.
The elements of stability and continuous resistance and struggle in the composition and fabric of the history,
culture, and beliefs of the Iranian people have been powerful and influential. The current resistance of the
people, representing various ethnicities, religions, diverse political approaches, and across the widespread
geography of Iran over the past years, is commendable.
The “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement is the heir and debtor to all these years of resistance with various
strategies. From the widespread and bloody protests against the fraudulent presidential elections of 1988 to
the “water” protests in the bloody November of 2019, and from the protests against the downing of the
Ukrainian plane to the ongoing protests by teachers, workers, retirees, and other social groups.
These days, the lifestyle has become the daily arena for the resistance of the youth who have transformed the
streets and public spaces into a platform for widespread civil resistance. Resistance is alive, and the struggle
endures.
Continuous resistance and non-violence are the strong strategies. This is the difficult path that Iranians have
taken until today, relying on their historical awareness and collective will. The Iranian people will dismantle
obstruction and despotism with persistence. Do not doubt, this is certain.
I, alongside civil society, resilient and courageous women and men of Iran, with hope and eagerness, extend my
hand to all forces, movements, and individuals focusing on peace, the global covenant of human rights, and
democracy. I am confident that the light of freedom and justice will shine powerfully on the land of Iran. At
that moment, we will celebrate the victory of democracy and human rights over tyranny and authoritarianism,
and the anthem of the people’s triumph on the streets of Iran will resonate worldwide

Narges Mohammadi
Azar 1402 (Dec 2023)
Evin Prison, Iran

To download as a pdf:

https://pen.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/Narges-Mohammadi-Nobel-Award-Speech.pdf

 

“I will make my voice louder for the world to hear,” says Mohammadi

Suffering from Serious Health Issues, Authorities Ban Phone Calls, Visitations 

December 8, 2023 – Governments worldwide, UN leaders, and human rights organizations should demand the immediate release of Iranian human rights defender Narges Mohammadi, who has been wrongfully imprisoned on fabricated charges and banned by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s government from personally attending the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, scheduled for December 10.

“On the day set for her to receive her Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Narges Mohammadi will be behind bars in Tehran’s Evin Prison, due to the Iranian government’s relentless attempts to silence her unwavering advocacy for the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Iranians,” said CHRI Executive Director Hadi Ghaemi.

“Mohammadi is a thorn in the side of the Islamic Republic,” said Ghaemi. “As long as she languishes in prison, her pleas for the freedom of all political prisoners must not go unheard. Advocates for peace and human rights worldwide must persistently demand her immediate release.”

CHRI has endorsed a recent appeal initiated by PEN America and supported by a diverse coalition of civil society organization and activists urging her release. Her precarious health condition, prompting hunger strikes for medical attention, underscores the urgency of her immediate and unconditional release to access necessary medical treatment.

CHRI implores activists and organizations around the world to promote PEN’s joint letter, sign and share the official FreeNarges campaign, and launch more international appeals to create a chorus of calls for Mohammadi’s freedom.

Mohammadi’s Message Penetrates Beyond Prison Walls

Mohammadi, a prominent advocate for women’s and human rights in Iran, courageously endangered herself by persistently denouncing state repression, even from within prison walls. Her notable statements include support for the country’s “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement, which was met with violent state repression when it sparked months of protests after the killing in state custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Jina Amini in September 2022.

“The history of my land is the tale of the struggles of freedom-seeking and tradition-breaking women, which has continued till the ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ movement of today,” said Mohammadi in an interview with actress and activist Angelina Jolie, which occurred briefly over the phone until abruptly blocked by prison authorities, and then through intermediaries.

Shortly after this conversation was published online, she faced intensified restrictions—her already limited access to communication was completely severed by prison authorities.

“I will make my voice louder for the world to hear,” she said in a message posted on her Instagram account, announcing the ban. “Despite increased pressure, harassment, and deprivation, you cannot force me into silence.”

Her unwavering courage in speaking out against torture, unlawful executions in Iran, sexual violence against women prisoners, and the Islamic Republic’s brutality towards peaceful protesters has made her a primary target of the Iranian authorities. They continue to impose multiple prison sentences on baseless charges against Mohammadi, now enduring her third imprisonment, with a cumulative sentence of over 10 years on charges such as “spreading propaganda against the state.”

Forced to spend most of the past 11 years in and out of prison on manufactured political charges, Mohammadi has been kept behind bars since May 2021, as a result of multiple prosecutions, on charges including “spreading propaganda against the state.”

The Islamic Republic authorities have initiated fresh cases against her in two branches of the state’s Revolutionary Court system: Branch 26 led by Judge Iman Afshari and Branch 29 led by Judge Amouzad.

“Mohammadi has sacrificed everything—her freedom, being with her family, and even her health due to the Iranian authorities’ refusal to allow adequate medical care to prisoners—to stand against the Islamic Republic of Iran’s tyranny,” said Ghaemi.

“Supporting Narges Mohammadi is standing in solidarity with all Iranians striving for a future free from political repression and state violence,” he added.

For interviews, contact our Media Department

media@iranhumanrights.org

Visit our website: 

www.iranhumanrights.org

Dear colleagues,

Thank you so much for signing on to the joint letter asking for the Iranian government to free
Narges Mohammadi prior to the Nobel Prize ceremony on December 10. The initial sign-on letter listed 260+ individuals and 45+ organizations. We have launched the wider petition today, on International Women Rights Defenders Day, in partnership with Narges’ family and all of you.
Our press release is here and the link to the open letter is here.  It’s now set up as an open letter on PEN.org so please sign and spread the word! The main hashtag is #FreeNarges
We’ve also asked some prominent writers and other individuals to pen personal messages to Narges, which will be highlighted over the next weeks on social media. First up, Australian writer and former political prisoner Kylie Moore Gilbert, followed by Azar Nafisi, Emma Thompson, and Margaret Atwood. Happy for other orgs to follow this model as well.
Please share and amplify, and help us free Narges before Dec 10!
Karin
Sample Posts:
Version 1:
I’m joining more than 250 writers, artists, and human rights defenders and 40+ civil society organizations from around the world to say #FreeNarges now! Read our letter and add your name to join our petition at @PENamerica: https://pen.org/open-letter-free-narges-now/ #FreedomToWrite
Version 2:
#FreeNarges now! With nearly 300 signatories and counting, we’re a part of the global call to release writer-activist Narges Mohammadi ahead of the #NobelPeacePrize ceremony. Read our letter and add your name to join the petition at @PENamerica: https://pen.org/open-letter-free-narges-now/
PEN America Posts:
If anyone would prefer to repost, here’s what we’ve already posted. We will post more and people can watch our feeds @PENamerica or we may tag them directly.

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People say that (writers) are pretty powerless: we don’t have an army, we don’t have a bureaucracy. But if that were true, then why would writers be arrested?... Because the spoken word is powerful.

— John Ralston Saul on the work of PEN International