On October 8, 2020, human rights defender, Narges Mohammadi was released from prison in Iran. Since June, her health has been declining and she has shown symptoms of coronavirus, but was denied health care. She has been reunited with her family.
Narges Mohammadi, an Iranian in her forties and the mother of two young children, is a longtime activist for human rights and women’s rights, who has been in and out of prison for the last fifteen years. She served as Executive Chair of the Center for Human Rights Defenders, where she was closely associated with Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner, Shirin Ebadi. The Center was closed by the Iranian government in 2008. Narges Mohammadi also founded and worked for an organization to oppose the death penalty.
In May 2016, she was sentenced to sixteen years in prison for her non-violent human rights activities. She was serving this sentence in Evin Prison until December 2019. She is critically ill, suffering from a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in her lungs) and a neurological disorder that has resulted in seizures and temporary partial paralysis. She requires ongoing specialized medical care, which she cannot receive in prison.
Narges Mohammadi has consistently received degrading and inhumane treatment from prison officials. Authorities have used access to her ten-year-old twins as a tool to punish her, denying her telephone contact. When she undertook a hunger strike to protest the authority’s refusal to let her speak with her children, it triggered global outrage and thousands of people, including more than 100,000 Iranians, posted messages in solidarity through a Twitter campaign. After 20 days, she was able to speak with her children.
An open letter by Narges Mohammadi was published online in October 2016, in which she condemned the confirmation of her sentence. She wrote,
I have faith in the path I have chosen, the actions I have taken, as well as my beliefs. I am determined to make human rights a reality [in Iran] and have no regrets. If those who claim to be spreading justice are firm on their judgment against me, I am also firm on my faith and beliefs. I will not waiver under tyrannical punishments that will limit my freedom to the four walls of the prison cell. I will endure this incarceration, but I will never accept it as lawful, human or moral, and I will always speak out against this injustice.
In a crackdown against nationwide protests that took place in more than 100 cities across Iran in November 2019, security forces used unlawful force, killing at least 304 people, including children, according to credible reports. The majority of the deaths Amnesty International has recorded occurred as a result of gunshots to the head, heart, neck or other vital organs, suggesting that the security forces were shooting to kill. The authorities arrested thousands of protesters and subjected some to enforced disappearances, incommunicado detention, and torture and other ill-treatment. The authorities have also threatened and arbitrarily detained some of the relatives of protesters killed, either as punishment for speaking to the media and human rights organizations or to stop them from doing so.
On December 21, 2019, Narges Mohammadi, along with others held in the women’s ward of Evin prison, announced their intention to hold a sit-in from that day in solidarity with the commemorations being held of those killed by security forces in the November 2019 protests on the 40th day following their deaths. On December 26, 2019, Narges Mohammadi issued an open letter describing ill-treatment during her transfer to Zanjan prison.
The office of the prosecutor in Tehran has refused to process the complaint that Narges Mohammadi filed in connection with her alleged abuses by the head of Evin prison. The prosecution authorities have also refused to give her a copy of a report by the Legal Medicine Organization of Iran which, according to Narges Mohamadi, confirmed that she sustained bruises and injuries in the course of her violent transfer from Evin prison to Zanjan prison. Instead, they have told her lawyer that she must apologize in writing to the head of Evin prison for publicly accusing him of torture and other ill-treatment.
Amnesty International designated Narges Mohammadi as a Prisoner of Conscience. 15 Iranian parliamentarians have called for her release, urging the Iranian government “to apply the clemency and mercy of the Islamic Republic” and to reunite her with her children.