Narges Mohammadi- Mother of two imprisoned for human rights activism
By: Maryam Hejazi
October 17, 2016
Narges Mohammadi has a long history of human rights activism in Iran. In 1998, she was arrested for the first time by the Iranian government for criticisms, and she was later in and out of prison throughout 2010-2012 for her leadership role in the DHRC (Defenders of Human Rights Center.)
Now, Mohammadi is back in prison where she has been since May 5, 2015, due to unclear charges relating to attempting to overthrow the state, and possibly linked to a meeting she had with the EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Aston in March of 2014.
Mohammadi is just one example of the countless prisoners of conscience held in Iran’s undignified prison complexes. Despite a rhetoric of reform, mainly coming from Iran’s sitting president Hassan Rouhani, Iran maintains a harsh tradition of imprisoning political dissidents and human rights activists, denying them access to fair legal services or a proven cause for arrest and conviction.
Another famous example of this is the arrest, torture, and murder of Iranian-born Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi in 2003. Kazemi’s crime was photographing a demonstration, and her brutal murder has led to Canada’s commitment to sponsoring a resolution at the UN against Iran’s human rights offenses every year since Kazemi’s death in 2003. The Canadian group ‘Canadian Friends for a Democratic Iran’ also supports an investigation into Iranian human rights abuses such as the 1988 Massacre, a mass execution that inspired Resolution 159 That is currently making its way through congress.
Amnesty international calls the arrest of Mohammadi an exposition of Iran’s “lip service to human rights”, rendering the dialogue of human rights reform lead by Rouhani as “utterly meaningless”. On the contrary, the non-profit asserts that such unjust treatment of a human rights advocate, who spent her life pushing for the abolishment of the death penalty only reveals Iran’s “deep disdain for the basic principles of justice.”
In Mohammadi’s case, the situation of her imprisonment has become more and more pressing in recent months. Mohammadi is the mother of two young children, living in France with Mohammadi’s husband, Taghi Rahmani. She has only had one phone conversation with her children since she was arrested in 2015.
As an attempt to convince the regime to let her speak with her children, Mohamaddi began a hunger strike on June 27, 2016. The hunger strike received international attention, resulting in the trending of the hashtag “#FreeNarges” on twitter. As an attempt to quell the international uproar, Iran’s judiciary tried to force Mohammadi to end her hunger strike, threatening to refuse her contact with her children if she continues. Iran is often accused of using prisoner’s children as means of coercing them into submissive behavior.
In addition to being denied contact to her children, Mohammadi’s health is detiorating and she is not being given adequate health care. Mohammadi has a blood clot in her lungs and suffers from frequent seizures and temporary partial paralysis. The specialized care she requires is unavailable to her in prison, and the hunger strive aggravated her health issues.
Unfortunately, Mohammadi’s case is not uncommon. Iran’s is known for its historically atrocious treatment of prisoners, with tragedies such as the 1988 Massacre still fresh in the minds of the global community. Today, despite moderate rhetoric coming from Iranian leadership, Iran’s prison system remains fraught with human rights violations. Iran’s revolutionary guard has recently increased their practice of arresting Iranian dual nationals, holding them as hostages for political ammo and refusing to acknowledge their dual nationality, which essentially cuts them off from diplomatic aid from their home country. In Evin prison where Mohammadi is held, there are as of June 25 female political prisoners held along with her, prisoners of conscience who are routinely denied health care and visits with family.
Women in Iran are especially targeted with attacks on their human rights, with a recent rise in acid attacks and arrests for “mal-veiling” going unaddressed by the state. The human rights situation in Iran, especially for women, is in urgent need of reform, but activists such as Mohammadi who speak out are silenced and imprisoned indefinitely.
Iranians both at home and abroad are urging the international community to take a stand, not only to help prisoners of conscience such as Mohammadi be freed and reunited with their children, but also to condemn the leadership in Iran that is letting human rights fall by the wayside despite promises to reform the country.