Human rights defender Narges Mohammadi

Iran: Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s health at risk

Iranian authorities have been subjecting arbitrarily detained human rights defender and 2023 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Narges Mohammadi to torture and other ill-treatment. The authorities are deliberately denying or severely delaying her access to adequate healthcare to coerce her into adhering to Iran’s abusive and degrading compulsory veiling laws. This places Narges Mohammadi’s health at great risk, particularly as she has serious heart and lung conditions.

Here’s what you can do:

Write to the Head of Judiciary urging him to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release Narges Mohammadi as she is a prisoner of conscience detained solely for her peaceful human rights activism.
  • Quash her unjust convictions and sentences and drop any new charges against her related to the peaceful exercise of her rights.
  • Pending her release, provide her with adequate specialized healthcare, including for treatment unavailable in prison, and protect her from further torture and other ill-treatment.
  • Ensure a prompt, independent, effective and impartial investigation into her allegations of torture and other ill-treatment is conducted, with those suspected of criminal responsibility brought to justice in fair trials.
  • Abolish all compulsory veiling laws in the country.

Write to:

Head of judiciary, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei

c/o Embassy of Iran to the European Union,

Avenue Franklin Roosevelt No. 15,

1050 Bruxelles, Belgium


On November 6, 2023, Narges Mohammadi’s family announced on social media that she began a hunger strike that day in protest at the Iranian authorities’ repeated denial or delay of adequate medical care for ailing prisoners. The lack of access to adequate healthcare results in death or severe deterioration in health, and in the case of women, it is seen as an intentional move to compel them to adhere to compulsory veiling laws.

In 2022, Iranian authorities repeatedly denied Narges Mohammadi access to adequate healthcare in prison, including in reprisal for her ongoing human rights work, and placed her life at grave risk. Narges Mohammadi reported that, on February 3, 2022, following what she later learned was a heart attack, the prison doctor denied her adequate healthcare by not carrying out examinations on her heart after she was taken to the prison clinic severely unwell.

Prosecution officials also barred her transfer to hospital outside of prison for urgent healthcare. It was only after suffering a series of heart attacks on February 16, 2022 that Narges Mohammadi was transferred to hospital where she underwent emergency heart surgery. Against medical advice and before she recuperated, on February 19, 2022, the authorities took her back to prison.

On February 22, 2022, she was released from prison on temporary medical leave and recalled to prison on April 21, 2022 to continue serving her sentence, despite medical advice, and has been in prison ever since. In addition to her heart condition, she has a pre-existing lung disease, which is characterized by breathing difficulties, and for which she must use an inhaler and regularly take anticoagulant medications to prevent the formation of blood clots in her lungs.

Torture & other ill-treatment

Narges Mohammadi has faced reprisals by the Iranian authorities for her human right work for over 14 years, including unjust prison terms. Her most recent imprisonment began on November 16, 2021, when she was violently arrested while attending a memorial ceremony in Karaj, Alborz province. The ceremony was in honor of Ebrahim Ketabdar, who was unlawfully killed by security forces during nationwide protests in November 2019.

At the time, the authorities told her that she had been arrested to begin serving a prison sentence of two years and six months following a May 2021 conviction. That conviction stemmed from her participation, during an earlier period of imprisonment, in a sit-in with other prisoners in the women’s ward of Evin prison between December 21 and 24, 2019 to protest unlawful killings carried out by security forces during the November 2019 nationwide protests and statements she had made condemning the death penalty.

After her arrest, she was held in prolonged solitary confinement for 64 days in section 209 of Evin prison, which is under the control of the Ministry of Intelligence. There, agents subjected her to torture and other ill-treatment by keeping bright lights on 24 hours a day; severely limiting her access to fresh air and natural light to only three times a week for 20 minutes each time; and kept her in almost near total isolation without meaningful contact with other prisoners; which all caused her severe distress and suffering, including shortness of breath.

Human rights defender Narges Mohammadi
Iranian human rights defender and anti-death penalty campaigner Narges Mohammadi

Targeted for her activism

On January 4, 2022, Narges Mohammadi was taken before Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran to stand trial in a separate case. This trial was grossly unfair: it lasted just five minutes and she was denied access to a lawyer both before and during the trial.

On January 15, 2022, she was informed that the Court had sentenced her on national security related charges to eight years and two months in prison; two years in internal “exile” in a city outside Tehran where she normally lives; a two-year ban on membership in political and social parties, groups or collectives; a two-year ban on engagement in online spaces, media and press; and 74 lashes.

In another case opened against her while she was imprisoned, in October 2022, Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran convicted Narges Mohammadi of “spreading propaganda against the system” and sentenced her to an additional one year and three months’ imprisonment, a two-year ban on leaving the country, a two-year ban on membership in political parties, groups or collectives and cleaning rubbish in uninhabited areas for four hours a day, three days a week, for three months.

Most recently, in yet another case brought against her, in early August 2023, Branch 29 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran convicted her of “spreading propaganda against the system” for her public writings from inside prison detailing sexual violence against women protesters detained during the “Woman Life Freedom” uprising and sentenced to a further one-year prison sentence.

Nobel Peace Prize

Narges Mohammadi was previously released on October 8, 2020, after being unjustly imprisoned for over five years in a case also solely stemming from her human rights work. She reported that from the time of her release until her arbitrary arrest and detention on November 16, 2021, she received death threats from security forces and was arbitrarily arrested on at least five occasions and detained each time for periods reaching up to about 24 hours.

On October 6, 2023 Narges Mohammadi was named the recipient of the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize “for her fight against the oppression of women in Iran and her fight to promote human rights and freedom for all”.