Imprisoned Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Narges Mohammadi has gone on hunger strike, her family says

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The 51-year-old rights activist was awarded the Nobel on October 6 for “her fight against the oppression of women in Iran and her fight to promote human rights and freedom for all.” That battle has come at a huge personal cost – she’s been sentenced to more than 30 years in jail, and has been banned from seeing her husband and children.

According to her family, an Iranian prosecutor refused to grant Mohammadi’s request to be transferred from Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, where she is being held, to a heart and lung hospital for “urgent medical care.”

US-based Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) reported that she was denied access to hospital treatment last week after refusing to wear the mandatory hijab.

“It’s been a week now that they are refusing to give her the medical aid she needs,” the activist’s family said in the statement, adding that they were “concerned” about her “physical condition and health.”

Mohammadi was using the hunger strike to demonstrate against Iran’s “policy of delaying and neglecting medical care for sick inmates” and its mandatory hijab policy for Iranian women, the family added.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said on Monday that it was “deeply concerned” for Mohammadi’s health.

“The requirement that female inmates must wear a hijab in order to be hospitalized is inhumane and morally unacceptable,” Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chair of the committee, said in a statement.

When it came to power four decades ago, the Islamic Republic used the compulsory hijab to “showcase the image of domination, subjugation and control over women” as a means to control society, Mohammadi wrote.

Another young woman, 16-year-old Armita Geravand, fell into a coma last month after she was allegedly assaulted by the country’s morality police for not wearing a headscarf on the Tehran metro. Geravand was announced dead on October 28 by Iranian state media, a month after Iran’s parliament passed draconian legislation imposing penalties of up to 10 years in prison for women who breach the country’s already strict hijab rules.

Mohammadi herself has spent most of the past two decades in prison and is currently serving a sentence of 10 years and 9 months, accused of actions against national security and propaganda against the state.

In August she was sentenced to an additional year in jail for her continued activism inside prison after she gave a media interview and a statement about sexual assaults in jail, which she says have “significantly increased” since the protests swept Iran last year, leading her to describe the abuse as now “systematic.”

Mohammadi was already serving time for publishing a book last year about Iran’s brutal prison methods, titled “White Torture: Interviews with Iranian Women Prisoners,” as well as a documentary film telling the stories of prisoners held in solitary confinement – a punishment Mohammadi herself has endured.

For refusing to be silenced behind bars, Mohammadi has been banned from speaking directly with her husband and children for more than a year.

The family have promised to hold the Iranian regime “responsible for anything that happens to our beloved Narges.”

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