Narges Mohammadi is the winner of the 2011 Per Anger Prize for her work in activism towards human rights. Her work on human rights had already got her arrested in in 2009, under the charges of “assembly and collusion against national security, membership in the [now banned] Defenders of Human Rights Center, and propaganda against the state.” She was sentenced to 11 years in prison in October 2011. However, the Appeals Court in Iran reduced her sentence to six years in prison, while in 2013, Narges was released from Zanjan Prison after paying a bail for medical reasons worth 600 million tomans, or $200,000.
Nevertheless, Narges continued her activism after she was released and in March 2014 met the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton at the Austrian Embassy in Tehran, where she discussed Iran’s human rights issues. That meeting resulted in intense pressure and harassment for Narges, while after the security establishment interrogated her, on May 5, 2015, she was again arrested on the same old charges.
Various international human rights organizations have voiced concerns over her current sentencing of 16 years in prison. The executive director of the Campaign at the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Hadi Ghaemi said, “Sixteen years in prison for engaging in peaceful civil activities is a blatant violation of Iran’s own laws as well as its international commitments guaranteeing the rights of citizens to freely express their views and work for peaceful causes within the law.” At Amnesty International, the Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Philip Luther also said that the verdict is cruel and a blow to the ongoing human rights activism in Iran, “Narges Mohammadi is a prominent advocate of human rights and a prisoner of conscience. She should be lauded for her courage not locked in a prison cell for 16 years.”
However, after EU’s diplomatic service, the European External Action Service (EEAS), issued a statement over the sentencing, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said that the European Union should try to understand the judicial system of Iran before giving controversial remarks over the sentencing of Narges Mohammadi. He further said, “Undoubtedly, those who issued the statement should be aware that the issue of human rights and its promotion will not be realized by issuing mere political statements.”