Narges Mohammadi (Persian: نرگس محمدی; born 21 April 1972) is an Iranian human rights activist and the vice president of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, headed by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi.
Mohammadi was born in Zanjan, Iran. She attended Imam Khomeini International University, receiving a degree in physics, and became a professional engineer. During her university career, she wrote articles supporting women’s rights in the student newspaper and was arrested at two meetings of the political student group Tashakkol Daaneshjuyi Roshangaraan (“Illuminating Student Group”). She was also active in a mountain climbing group, but due to her political activities, was later banned from joining climbs.
She went on to work as a journalist for several reformist newspapers, and published a book of political essays titled The reforms, the Strategy and the Tactics. In 2003, she joined the Defenders of Human Rights Center, headed by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi; she later became the organization’s vice president.
In 1999, she married to fellow pro-reform journalist Taghi Rahmani, who not long after was arrested for the first time. Rahmani moved to France in 2012 after serving a total of fourteen years of prison sentences, but Mohammadi remained to continue her human rights work. Mohammadi and Rahmani have twin children, Ali and Kiana.
Mohammadi was first arrested in 1998 for her criticisms of the Iranian government and spent a year in prison. In April 2010, she was summoned to the Islamic Revolutionary Court for her membership in the DHRC. She was briefly released on US$50,000 bail but re-arrested several days later and detained at Evin prison. Mohammadi’s health declined while in custody, and she developed an epilepsy-like disease causing her to periodically lose muscle control. After a month, she was released and allowed to go to the hospital.
In July 2011, Mohammadi was prosecuted again, and found guilty of “acting against the national security, membership of the DHRC and propaganda against the regime”. In September she was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment. Mohammadi stated that she had learned of the verdict only through her lawyers and had been “given an unprecedented 23-page judgment issued by the court in which they repeatedly likened my human rights activities to attempts to topple the regime”. In March 2012, the sentence was upheld by an appeals court, though it was reduced to six years. On 26 April, she was arrested to begin her sentence.
The sentence was protested by the British Foreign Office, which called it “another sad example of the Iranian authorities’ attempts to silence brave human rights defenders”. Amnesty International designated her a prisoner of conscience and called for her immediate release. Reporters Without Borders issued an appeal on Mohammadi’s behalf on the ninth anniversary of photographer’s Zahra Kazemi death in Evin prison, stating that Mohammadi was a prisoner whose life was “in particular danger”. In July 2012, an international group of lawmakers called for her release, including US Senator Mark Kirk, former Canadian Attorney General Irwin Cotler, UK MP Denis MacShane, Australian MP Michael Danby, Italian MP Fiamma Nirenstein, and Lithuanian MP Emanuelis Zingeris.
On July 31, 2012, Mohammadi was released from prison.
On 31 October 2014, Mohammadi made a moving speech at the gravesite of Sattar Beheshti, stating, “How is it that the Parliament Members are suggesting a Plan for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, but nobody spoke up two years ago, when an innocent human being by the name of Sattar Beheshti died under torture in the hands of his interrogator?” Despite the act of extreme violence against Beheshti, which was met with an international uproar back in 2012, his case still raises questions and Evin prison still witnesses torture and unfair arrests of human rights defenders today. The video of Mohammadi’s 31 October speech quickly went viral on social media networks resulting in her being summoned to Evin Prison Court. “In the summons I received on 5 November 2014, it is stated that I must turn myself in ‘for charges,’ but there is no further explanation about these charges,” she stated.
On May 5, 2015, Ms. Mohammadi was again arrested on the basis of new charges.
In 2009, Mohammadi received the Alexander Langer Award, named for peace activist Alexander Langer. The award carried a 10,000 euro honorarium. In 2011 Mohammadi received the Per Anger Prize, the Swedish governments international award for human rights. In 2016 she received the Human Rights Award of the German city of Weimar.