Nargis Mohammadi: Children of jailed Nobel laureate fear they will never see her again


Oslo, Norway
CNN

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

He remembers Iranian Revolutionary Guard Arresting his father. Since then, he and his twin sister Gianna’s Life is a series of arrests, separations and deportations. If one parent is present, the other is in prison.

Now 17 years old, both will accept Nobel Peace Prize On behalf of their mother, the famous Iranian activist Nargis Mohammadi, who is jailed this Sunday. Together they will present her with the Nobel Lecture Bad Evin was kidnapped from prison.

“Standing here, I’m trying to visualize the crowd. We’ll stand there and give a speech,” Gianna told CNN as they head to Oslo City Hall, where the prestigious ceremony will take place.

They walk toward the stage in a small seating arrangement under tall murals. “We have to accept all of this,” says Gianna, standing next to a portrait of their mother girded with purple jasmine panels. Many important people will come here. It’s really mental preparation.”

Both had not seen their mother since they were eight years old and had not spoken to her for nearly two years as restrictions on communication became even tighter ahead of the ceremony. Mohammadi and his family have paid a heavy price for his activism, campaigning for human rights, supporting political prisoners and opposing the death penalty.

He was arrested 13 times, convicted five times and sentenced to a total of 31 years and 154 lashes.

“We are very proud of everything she has done. What saddens us today is that she is not here because we should not be interviewed. That 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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They have the responsibility to be not only the voice of Amma but also the voice of the people.

“We’re not here for ourselves or our families, we’re here for freedom and democracy and the women’s life freedom movement,” Kiana says, referring to the nationwide protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahza Zina Amini in custody. Iran’s moral police In 2022.

It is a path they must walk alone. In Oslo, they continue to be welcomed by members of the Iranian diaspora, who, like their parents, spent years in prison or exile for their dissent.

They say they understand and accept whatever impact the sacrifice has had on their lives. They have been in self-imposed exile with their father in France since 2015.

“Of course, there have been times in my life when I wanted my mom by my side,” Gianna tells CNN. “During puberty, your body changes, it’s a question you ask your mom. I taught myself because I had no one to ask me. I would have loved it if she had taken me shopping, taught me how to wear makeup and how to treat my body.”

She cherishes her mother’s childhood memories. “I would describe her as a Disney mom, a little bit like the movies,” says Gianna. “If you are hungry, you can eat as much ice cream as you want. If we want to help with more food, we always can. She did everything she could to make us comfortable and have stability in our lives. Now like my father he has played both roles very well.

They hugged her for the last time on the day of her arrest, when they were not yet nine years old. After making them breakfast, sending them to school, when they came back, she was gone.

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Both Ali and Gianna take comfort in a simple realization. Although they worry about their mother’s deteriorating health, they hope international recognition and pressure on Iran will save her life.

Ali mentions how distressing the news about the execution of political prisoners is. “Many of our countrymen have lost their fathers, mothers and siblings,” he says.

“Obviously, I’m glad she’s alive because other people have lost loved ones and I can’t even imagine what that must be like,” Kiana says.

A day before the ceremony, Mohammed announced another hunger strike to protest against human rights abuses in Iran and the civil rights of the Baha’is, a religious minority in Iran.

On their pre-ceremony tour, they met Berit Reiss-Andersen, head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, who recognized Mohammadi’s fight against “systemic discrimination and oppression” when he announced the Nobel win on October 6.

He called on the Iranian government to release Mohammadi.

“I feel very sad, and I feel it’s a shame that Iran is holding a person in prison who was recognized as deserving of the Peace Prize. I think about her all the time, she will never have the chance to experience this great event,” Reiss-Anderson tells CNN after meeting the twins. I feel she is represented very well by the children and her husband,” she adds.

The two visited an exhibit honoring their mother’s work at the Nobel Peace Center.

Since the 1990s, Mohammadi has advocated for women’s rights and democracy and worked with the banned Human Rights Center, founded by 2003 Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi, whose image is also featured in the exhibition.

The museum’s walls are lined with childhood photographs of the siblings and the rare occasions when the little family was intact, together and smiling. Ali and Gianna count the steps in a corner and recreate the solitary confinement that both their parents experienced. Ali’s father, Taghi Rahmani, a political prisoner for 14 years, recounts how he kept his spirits up by walking back and forth and finding solace in the carvings on the walls left behind by former prisoners.

It was a form of “white torture” that their mother documented in harrowing detail in a book she wrote in prison, and which is featured in the museum.

Jail did not silence Mohammadi. She doesn’t see the streets of Iran erupting with mass protests against theocracy in 2022. Yet, in audio recordings smuggled out of jail and shared with CNN, she is heard leading her fellow inmates in the protests’ iconic “women, life, freedom” chant.

She continues to work tirelessly to expose sexual abuse of political prisoners, including a written interview with CNN this summer by intermediaries. His prison terms are mounting for charges of conspiracy against national security and false propaganda.

She vowed that she would spend the rest of her life in prison.

“I don’t believe in seeing forever [my mother] Again. My mother has another 10 years in prison and every time she does something, like send the speech we read at the ceremony, it adds to her sentence,” says Gianna. “She will always be in my heart, and I accept it because the struggle, the movement, the freedom of women’s lives are worth it. Freedom and democracy are precious. It is worth the sacrifice.”

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