Iranian Americans in Fresno say that Friday’s announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize award going to jailed human rights activist Narges Mohammadi puts the international spotlight on Iran and its cleric-led regime, and is a welcome boost to those seeking regime change.
Mohammadi was jailed last year after attending a memorial service for Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish woman whose death at the hands of Iran’s morality police sparked protests that continue today.
Mohammadi has continued to be the voice of women in Iran, even though she has been sentenced to 31 years in prison and dozens of “lashes,” said Fresno resident Parvin Malek.
Malek said when she learned of Mohammadi’s Nobel Prize award, “I was so happy, so excited, and we are planning to celebrate her victory.”
The announcement in Norway began with three words in Farsi that were repeated in English, “Woman. Life. Freedom,” which became the cry of protesters around the world after Amini’s death.
Malek said she knows Mohammadi personally and had invited her to be a guest speaker for her organization, the Iranian Culture and Art Club of Fresno.
Even though she is behind bars, Mohammadi continues to urge Iranians who are seeking democracy to stay strong and continue the fight, Parvin said.
More International Pressure
Farshid Assemi, president of Central Distributing and brother of GV Wire Publisher Darius Assemi, said the Nobel Prize award will be a boost to those who are seeking regime change in Iran.
“I think it’s going to cause additional international pressure on Iran,” he said. That pressure includes questioning why Mohammadi has been imprisoned simply for stating her views.
“What has she done wrong? Simply speaking, where is it in your constitution that speaking and disagreeing with your beliefs is punishable by eight years, 10 years in prison?” he said.
French by Birth, Persian by Blood
Dr. Tara Hashemi, an assistant professor of French at Fresno State, has never been to Iran, although she is fluent in Farsi and celebrates all the holidays. Hashemi, who was born and raised in France — her parents were at college when the Iranian revolution broke out in 1979 and never returned home — learned about her Iranian culture from her parents.
Hashemi said she was “very emotional” Friday when she opened her X account (formerly Twitter) and saw the Nobel Peace Prize announcement and also a message from French President Emmanuel Macron. Like her parents, Mohammadi’s husband and two children live in Paris, part of the vast Iranian diaspora.
Since the protests over Amini’s death began a year ago her mother has been trying to raise awareness by going to the Eiffel Tower every Sunday with friends, armed with signs.
The award of the Nobel Peace Prize will not only raise Mohammadi’s profile but also will raise awareness in the general public, Hashemi said.
“It’s amazing. I’m just so happy that we’re talking about it, and we’re still being aware of what’s going on,” she said. “And now (with the Nobel award) I can talk about it even more, with more people, including you.”
His ‘Personal Hero’
Iranian American Hamid Entezam, a lecturer in comparative religions who is a close observer of Iranian and international politics, offered his views recently on what is necessary to achieve regime change in Iran, which has been ruled for 44 years by Islamic clerics.
Entezam said Friday that he considers Mohammadi a “personal hero” whose bravery and resilience has endured even though she has been subjected to repeated prison stays, much of it in solitary confinement. She “embodies my own vision for a movement to replace the medieval theocracy in Iran: nonviolence, inclusion, homegrown movement not financed or propped up by foreign powers, commitment to democracy and human rights — not in words but concrete actions while fighting against a brutal regime.”
Being named a Nobel Peace Prize winner gives her more legitimacy and a bigger audience around the world, he said.
“Narges Mohammadi has singlehandedly disarmed the regime; because she has not been broken by all that the security forces have unleashed on her in the past 14 years,” Entezam told GV Wire.
He noted that the decision to start the Nobel award announcement with the motto of the protest movement that sprang up after Mahsa Amini’s killing was a clear message not only to the cleric-led regime but also to the protesters, “that the world acknowledges the sacrifices of those who took part in street protests in Iran last year. This will definitely bring new blood to the movement that aims to replace the Islamic Republic with a secular democracy.”