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Nobel Peace Prize and Nergis Muhammedi’s Struggle for Freedom

You might not have followed this, but the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Nergis Safiye Muhammedi. Known as an Iranian Azerbaijani, she is an Azerbaijani citizen of Iran, born in 1972. She is a journalist and human rights activist who has led civil disobedience protests against mandatory hijab laws in Iran and has been actively fighting to abolish the death penalty in the country.

Due to her fearless struggles in the field of human rights, she was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2016 and remained incarcerated until 2020. She was released briefly but was re-arrested in 2021. Currently, she is still in prison. The Peace Prize was awarded to her while she was in prison, and her 17-year-old twins, Ali and Kiana Rahmani, accepted it on her behalf. As expected, Iran condemned the decision to award the Peace Prize to Muhammedi.

Nergis Muhammedi Muhammedi sent a short speech from prison, stating: “Iranian society needs global support, and you, journalists and media workers, are our greatest and most important allies in the tough fight against the destructive oppression of the Islamic Republic of Iran. I sincerely thank you for your efforts and what you do for us. The fact is that the Islamic Republic regime is at its lowest point in terms of legitimacy and social support. Now is the time for the international community to support the people of Iran, and I will do my utmost in this regard.”

In this context, the first thing that came to my mind was how much the reasons for this woman’s imprisonment in a system called the Islamic Republic are in line with Islamic values. Would the Prophet Muhammad, if he were alive today, have given the same punishment to Nergis Muhammedi?

I hear you say, “Indeed!” Indeed, it’s a profound thought.

In her speech at the ceremony, Kiana Rahmani, one of the siblings who accepted the award on behalf of their mother, said, “Maybe I’ll see her in 30, 40 years, but I think I’ll never see her again. But that’s not important because my mother will always live in my heart. These are values worth fighting for.”

Now, I would like to address Kiana directly: As someone who was with his mother until her last breath but couldn’t be with his father during the last 7 years of his life or at his death due to the oppression of Erdogan’s regime, I understand the impact of your words, Kiana. It’s not easy. “My mother will always live in my heart,” you say, and “These are values worth fighting for” – and they are – but when human feelings are suppressed, it’s different.

As time passes, the mind is constantly occupied with thoughts of the loved one. Memories flash in front of your eyes. The heart and soul can no longer bear this burden. You just sigh. The body also reaches a point where it can no longer bear this weight and gives in. This is a reality I have experienced.

However, I admire you. At 17, you show such awareness and determination. You are committed to fighting against the system’s injustice for basic human rights and freedoms, and I see in your words a firm stance for a world where justice, rights, and fairness prevail.

In my neighboring country, Turkey, I have seen many determined young people like you. Their parents were imprisoned by the state’s disproportionate power, and these young people are fighting for true justice in their country. They are sacrificing their youth for this cause.

Like many young people I have seen in Turkey and around the world, you are an example. I hope that your efforts will soon be rewarded with justice and freedom.

The saying “geography is destiny” seems particularly apt in this context!

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Dr. Ahmet Kurucan is a an author and scholar focusing on Islamic Studies and Law.

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