Narges Mohammadi: Nobel Prize-winning prisoner’s children fear they will never see her again

Oslo, Norway

At the age of four, Ali Rahmani realized that his family would never live a normal life.

He remembers Iran’s Revolutionary Guards His father’s arrest. Since then, he and his twin sister, Kiana Life was a series of arrests, separations and exiles. If one parent is present, the other is in prison.

They are now 17 years old, and they will accept Nobel Peace Prize This Sunday on behalf of their imprisoned mother, the famous Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi. Together they will give the Nobel Lecture, which was She was smuggled out of the notorious Evin Prison.

“I’m standing here, trying to visualize the crowd. We’re going to stand there to give the speech,” Kiana told CNN as they toured Oslo City Hall where the prestigious ceremony will be held.

They walk past simple seating arrangements under towering murals toward the stage. “We have to live up to all of this,” Kiana says, standing next to a photo of their mother surrounded by panels of purple orchids. “There’s going to be a lot of important people here. This is really the mental preparation.”

The two have not seen their mother since they were eight years old and have not spoken to her in nearly two years due to increasing restrictions on communication, which became more severe before the ceremony. For her activism and campaigning for human rights, support for political prisoners and against the death penalty, Mohammadi and her family paid a heavy price.

She was arrested 13 times, convicted five times, and sentenced to 31 years in prison and 154 lashes.

“We are very proud of everything she has done. What really saddens us today is that she is not here, because we should not be the ones being interviewed. This is my mother’s right but we will do our best to be her voice and represent what is happening in Iran,” says Ali.

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The responsibility of being the voice of not only their mother, but the voice of their people, falls on them.

“We are not here just for us or for our family, but for freedom, for democracy and for the women’s freedom movement,” Kiana says, referring to the nationwide protests over the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Gina Amini. From the Iranian morality police In 2022.

It’s a path they don’t have to walk alone. In Oslo, they are constantly welcomed by members of the Iranian diaspora who, like their fathers, paid the price for their opposition with years of imprisonment or exile.

They say they understand and accept the sacrifice, despite its impact on their lives. They have lived with their father in self-imposed exile in France since 2015.

“Of course, sometimes in my life I wanted my mother to be by my side,” Kiana told CNN. “When you’re an adult, your body changes, and that’s the kind of question you might ask your mother. I had no one to ask so I taught myself. I would have loved it if she had taken me shopping and taught me how to apply make-up and how to handle my body.”

She cherishes her mother’s childhood memories. “I describe her as a bit of a Disney mom, a bit like in the movies,” Kiana says. “If we’re hungry, we can eat as much ice cream as we want. If we want to help ourselves to more food, we always can. She did everything she could to make us feel comfortable and stable in our lives. She played both roles well Just like my father does now.

The last time I hugged her was the day she was arrested, when she was not yet nine years old. She made them breakfast, sent them to school, and when they came back, she was gone.

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Both Ali and Kiana find solace in a simple realization. Despite their growing concerns about their mother’s deteriorating health, they believe international recognition and pressure on Iran could save her life.

Ali points out the extent of the pain caused by news of the execution of political prisoners, in addition to the killing of hundreds of others during the protests. “Many of our citizens have lost their fathers, mothers and siblings,” he says.

“Honestly, I’m glad she’s alive, because others have lost loved ones and I can’t even imagine what that’s like,” Kiana says.

On Saturday, a day before the ceremony, they announced that Mohammadi would begin another hunger strike to protest human rights abuses in Iran and violations of the civil rights of Baha’is, a religious minority in Iran.

On their pre-ceremony tour, they met with Berrit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee, who recognized Mohammadi’s struggle against “discrimination and systemic oppression” when she announced her Nobel Prize win on October 6.

The Iranian government called for Mohammadi’s release.

“I feel very sad and feel that it is a shame for Iran to keep in prison someone who has been recognized and found worthy of the Peace Prize. I think about her all the time, that she will not have the opportunity to experience this big event,” she adds. “But I also feel that she is well represented by Before her children and husband.

The two take a look at the exhibit honoring their mother’s activism at the Nobel Peace Center.

Since the 1990s, Mohammadi has advocated for women’s rights and democracy and worked with the banned Human Rights Defenders Centre, founded by 2003 Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, whose photo also appears in the exhibition.

Reyhan Tavati/Middle East Images/AFP/Getty Images

Narges Mohammadi in Tehran, Iran, in 2021

The museum’s walls are filled with photos from the brother’s childhood and rare occasions when the young family was together and smiling. Ali and Kiana count the steps in a corner meant to recreate the solitary confinement their parents endured. Ali tells how their father, Tajji Rahmani, was a political prisoner for 14 years, maintaining his sanity by walking back and forth, finding solace in the inscriptions left on the walls by former prisoners.

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It’s a kind of “white torture” that their mother documented in excruciating detail in a book she wrote in prison, which is also on display at the museum.

Prison did not silence Al-Mohammadi. You could not see the streets of Iran teeming with mass protests in 2022 against the theocratic regime. However, in audio recordings smuggled from prison and shared with CNN, she is heard leading her fellow prisoners in the famous protest chant of “Women, Life, Freedom.”

She also continues to work tirelessly to expose sexual assaults against political detainees, including in a written interview with CNN this summer facilitated through intermediaries. Her prison sentences are constantly increasing, on charges of conspiring against national security and spreading false propaganda, among other charges.

She vowed to never stop even if it meant spending the rest of her life in prison.

“I’m really not very optimistic about the vision at all [my mother] once again. “My mom still has a 10-year prison sentence ahead of her, and every time she does something, like sending the letter that we’re going to read at the party, it adds to her sentence,” Kiana says. “You will always be in my heart, and I accept that because the struggle, the movement, and the freedom of women’s lives are worth it. Freedom and democracy are priceless. “It’s all worth the sacrifice.”

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