2019 Iran: Narges Mohammadi

Journalist, menneskerettighetsforkjemper og Norsk PENs æresmedlem Narges Mohammadi er akutt syk, men får ikke nødvendig medinsk tilsyn og behandling i Evin-fengselet, der hun soner en dom på seks år – utelukkende på grunn av sitt arbeid for menneskerettigheter og demokrati i Iran. Øivind Hånes i Norsk PENs komité for fengslede forfattere krever i sitt brev til iranske myndigheter at Narges Mohammadi umiddelbart får den livreddende medisinske behandlingen hun behøver, og at hun løslates uten betingelser.


President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Hassan Rouhani
Oslo, 6th of June 2019

Dear Mr. President,

Norwegian PEN is deeply concerned for the health and wellbeing of prominent journalist and human rights defender Narges Mohammadi who is currently in Evin prison, serving a six-year prison sentence for her human rights activities. In prison, she has developed a serious infection as a result of the conditions of her detention. In May 2019, following a sharp deterioration in her health, the prison authorities transferred Mohammadi to a hospital where she underwent an emergency hysterectomy. However, after surgery Mohammadi was immediately transferred back to Evin prison where she is denied necessary medication including antibiotics. Consequently, Mohammadi’s surgery wounds have become infected, and the infection has entered her bloodstream. She urgently requires medical care and medicines including antibiotics.

Narges Mohammadi was first arrested in June 2010 before being released on bail pending trial. On 26 September 2011 she was sentenced to five years in prison for ‘gathering and colluding with intent to harm national security’, one year in prison for ‘spreading propaganda against the system’ and 10 years for ‘founding and running an illegal organisation’ for her work with Legam, advocating against the death penalty. She remained free on bail and the sentence was reduced to six years on appeal in April 2012, when she was summoned to serve out her sentence. Mohammadi’s health has sharply declined as a result of her imprisonment. She recently published an open letter where she powerfully describes the prison conditions which have led to her severe health problems.

Norwegian PEN is expressing serious concern for the health of Narges Mohammadi, urging the authorities to permit her access to all necessary medical care as a matter of urgency. We are calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Narges Mohammadi and all those detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression. We are also demanding a full investigation into reports that Mohammadi is being ill-treated and denied adequate medical care in prison.

Yours sincerely,

Mr Øivind Hånes
Chair of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Embassy of Iran, Oslo

A message from Narges Mohammadi

Iranian journalist and human rights activist Narges Mohammadi is currently serving a 16-year sentence. She sent a letter which was read during the event The Word is Free, at the Norwegian Festival of Literature in Lillehammer. The letter was read by Narges’ brother, Hamidreza Mohammadi, during the event. You can watch it on our YouTube channel or you can read the letter below.


It’s an honor to be your guest at this important conference in Norway, and I’m sorry for not being able to be among you because of my imprisonment, although these words convey my message to you.  And this  is important, because the words are exactly the reason why I’m in prison right now, and the words and the respect for the freedom of speech are the reason why you have gathered. So, I consider myself there with you, in a city  of which beauty I’ve heard. I greet you in the beautiful city of Lillehammer.

Dear friends,

I’m writing you after I’ve finished serving my 6-year sentence in prison, and the 16-year sentence just started on 14 March 2017, all of which due to my work at the Defenders of Human Rights Center, to  my feminist activities and to opposing the death penalty.

You may wonder what I’ve done or said or written to deserve such a punishment.

Let me tell you a story so that you can judge for yourself what you would do if you were here instead of me or any other Iranian human rights activist. When I was serving my sentence in Zanjan prison, I met a beautiful young woman who had spent most of her life in prison. She was sentenced to death when she was a minor and she spent all her childhood and teenage years waiting for the gallows to be hanged once she reached adulthood. Because, according to the rules, children must stay in the prison until the age of 18 before they are executed.  I watched her suffering every day. Outside the prison, because of the nature of my activities at the Defenders of Human Rights Center, I was often in contact with the families of the death row prisoners, and I’ve witnessed the horrible pain and suffering the death penalty imposes on society.

My dear friends, if you were me wouldn’t you use your pen to try to reform such laws?

If I’m not with you in the beautiful city of Lillehammer today it’s because I’m also paying the price for writing and speaking against solitary confinement and torture. Solitary confinement is a clear example of torture. It’s a place to brainwash and break the will of those opposing the system. One of my goals has been to try to abolish solitary confinement, which are unfortunately controlled and used by different Iranian institutions such as the Revolutionary Guards, the Ministry of Intelligence and even the Judiciary.

My dear colleagues and friends,

If you live in countries where you enjoy the blessing of equality and freedom of speech, it is because there have been people who had fought for and paid the price for it in the past. There have been, without any doubt, women who have fought against gender discrimination and inequality between men and women. Did you know that one of the reasons I’m in prison is my feminist activities? It’s obvious that, as long as there are discriminatory laws against women, there will also be people fighting against the discrimination.

My dear friends, my long prison sentence is because of my struggle side by side with my fellow countrymen and women to achieve democracy, and rest assured that I will continue my efforts the moment I get out of the prison.

Dear friends,

Our ideals are: peace, security, freedom and equality for all.

What remains of human beings without their ideals? Narges Mohammadi can be imprisoned, like any other activist imprisoned on the way to achieve freedom and justice. But can they imprison our ideals? No! Never! And it is our joint responsibility to protect human ideals and aspirations, and to take actual steps in order to fulfill them.

My friends and colleagues who live in the free world, you who hold conferences and try to protect freedom of expression as one of the human ideals, I am addressing you. I believe that peace, security and human rights are achievable only if we unite and support each other.

I sincerely thank you all for listening to me. I also thank the hosts and organizers of the Lillehammer Literature Festival, PEN International that has never hesitated to support me, ICORN organization, and especially Norwegian PEN that has campaigned for my freedom of speech, and all the organizations and individuals supporting freedom of speech and human rights who have shown their support for me and my imprisoned colleagues all around the world.

Lillehammer i dag: Asli Erdogan live fra Istanbul

Asli Erdogan, Narges Mohammadi og Khadija Ismayilova kommer til Lillehammer 31. mai.


Onsdag 31. mai kl. 22.00 i Teltet på Stortorget, Lillehammer

De tre modige skribentene og aktivistene Erdogan, Mohammadi og Ismayilova vil alle være til stede under festivalprogrammet Ordet er fritt onsdag 31. mai. Felles for de tre er at de betaler en høy pris for å ytre seg fritt i sine hjemland. Ingen av dem kan delta ved personlig nærvær, det har myndighetene i hhv Tyrkia, Iran og Aserbajdsjan satt en brutal stopper for. Til tross for fengsling og utreiseforbud vil de tre bli hørt. Narges Mohammadi har skrevet et brev fra fengselet til sine venner på Lillehammer som blir lest opp av hennes bror, Asli Erdogan snakker med oss via Skype, Khadija Ismayilova vil også delta live via Skype.

Programmet ledes av den islandske forfatteren Sjón, som også er leder av Islandsk PEN.

Narges Mohammadi soner en 16 års fengselsstraff i det beryktede Evin-fengselet for å ha kjempet for kvinners rettigheter i Iran. For få dager siden ble hun innlagt på sykehus. Det er ikke enkelt for fanger i iranske fengsler å kommunisere med omverden, men for kort tid siden mottok vi et brev fra Narges med hilsen til alle som kjemper for hennes sak, til kolleger og publikum i Norge. Hun skriver bl.a.:

 “Dear friends,
I’m writing to you after I’ve served my first 6-year sentence, and the new 16-year sentence started on 14 March 2017.  All because of my work at Defenders of Human Rights Center, feminist activities and opposing death penalty.”

Brevet blir lest opp i sin helhet av hennes bror Hamidreza Mohammadi.

Asli Erdogan ble arrestert 17. august i fjor sammen med 22 journalister og ansatte i den kurdiske avisa Özgur Gündem. Hun ble beskyldt for «å ha propagandert for terroristorganisasjonen PKK». Kolleger fra hele verden protesterte og aksjonerte for Erdogans løslatelse og frifinnelsen av alle fengslede forfattere og journalister i Tyrkia. Erdogan ble løslatt 29. desember, men siktelsen mot henne og de andre journalistene står ved lag. Neste rettsmøte er 19. juni i Istanbul, hun risikerer 7 års fengsel. Myndighetene har gitt henne utreiseforbud.

Asli Erdogan deltar i programmet via Skype i samtale med Sjón.

Khadija Ismayilova er en prisvinnende journalist, hun ble dømt til 7 års fengsel for å ha publisert artikler som avslører menneskerettighetsbrudd og korrupsjon blant myndighetene i Aserbaidsjan. Khadija Ismayilova ble løslatt fra fengsel 25. mai 2016, da hadde hun sittet i fengsel i 537 dager. Ismayilova er nektet utreise. Ismayilova deltar i programmet via Skype i samtale med Sjón.

Kveldens konferansier er den islandske forfatteren og leder i Islandsk PEN, Sjón.

Forfatterkollegaer som medvirker er: Gunvald Axner Ims (Norge), Asieh Amini (Iran), Mohammadi Hamidreza (Iran), Anzhelina Polonskaya (Russland), Ali Kalaei (Syria), Birger Emanuelsen (Norge), Gunel Movlud (Aserbajdsjan), Housam Al-Mosilli (Syria), Basim Mardan (Irak), Brit Bildøen (Norge).

Musikalske innslag ved Khaled Harara (Palestina)

Norsk PEN, Litteraturfestivalen på Lillehammer, PEN International, og ICORN samler til denne litterære og musikalske støttemarkeringen for den tyrkiske forfatteren Asli Erdoğan, den iranske menneskerettighetsaktivisten og journalisten Narges Mohammadi og journalisten Khadija Ismayilova fra Aserbajdsjan.

Konferansen In Other Words
Når ytringsfrihet trues, knebles eller forbys, er kunstnere og forfattere tvunget til å finne stadig mer oppfinnsomme måter å unngå undertrykkelse på. Det dukker opp nye uttrykksmåter, nye ord og nye motstandsformer.

Parallelt med litteraturfestivalen arrangeres en større ytringsfrihetskonferanse på Lillehammer. Konferansen In Other Words er et samarbeid mellom PEN International Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) og ICORN (International Cities of Refuge Network). Mer enn 300 forfattere, kunstnere, aktivister, fribyrepresentanter og andre gjester fra 60 land er samlet på Lillehammer i perioden 31. mai til 2. juni for å utforske og diskutere hvordan vi kan fortsette å styrke arbeidet for å beskytte forfattere i fare og skape en fremtid hvor ytringsfriheten kan blomstre.

Konferansen arrangeres i nært samarbeid med Litteraturfestivalen og Lillehammer kommune.

Norsk PEN er stolt av å være nasjonalt PEN-vertskap for konferansen. Konferansen arrangeres fra 31. mai til 2. juli, paneldebattene om aktuelle ytringsfrihetsspørsmål er åpne for publikum. Programmet kan leses her.

2016 Iran: Concern for Narges Mohammadi

Norwegian PEN has sent an appeal to the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and to the Secretary General, High Council for Human Rights, regarding the case of journalist and human rights activist Narges Mohammadi.
Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Shoahada Street, Qom,

Islamic Republic of Iran

Oslo, 06.10.2016

Your Excellency,
With great sorrow and concern, Norwegian PEN has received the news that the 16-year prison sentence against prominent journalist and human rights defender Narges Mohammadi, who is critically ill, has been upheld on appeal.
PEN International has been calling on the Iranian authorities to quash all the convictions of Narges Mohammadi and release her immediately and unconditionally as she is imprisoned for the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression. We have also expressed grave concern for the health and welfare of Narges Mohammadi, and urged the authorities to allow Mohammadi regular access to her family, including regular telephone calls to her children who are abroad.Most of all we wish to see this brave woman set free, and to register that the right to freedom of expression in Iran is fully respected in law and practice as provided for under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Iran is a state party. This sentence comes as Iran’s authorities are preparing for renewed bilateral dialogue with the EU, and casts serious doubts over Iran’s commitment to engage meaningfully with the EU on human rights issues.Norwegian PEN urges the Iranian authorities to repeal the grave sentence against Nargas Mohammadi. Yours sincerely,Ms Brit Bildøen

Chair of Writers in Prison Committee

Norwegian PEN


The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Oslo,
Secretary General, High Council for Human Rights, Mohammed Javad Larijan.
In June 2016, Narges Mohammadi wrote a letter to PEN International, explaining her conditions in prison, calling for help to combat the use of solitary confinement as torture.

2016 Iran: Narges Mohammadi

Narges Mohammadi

Letter from Narges Mohammadi to the PEN Membership

Imprisoned Iranian journalist and activist Narges Mohammadi writes a moving letter from prison to the international PEN Membership:

Dear members of International PEN,

I’m writing this letter to you from the Evin Prison. I am in a section with 25 other female political prisoners, with different intellectual and political point of view. Until now 23 of us, have been sentenced to a total of 177 years in prison (2 others have not been sentenced yet). We are all charged due to our political and religious tendency and none of us are terrorists.

The reason to write these lines is, to tell you that the pain and suffering in the Evin Prison is beyond tolerance. Opposite other prisons in Iran, there is no access to telephone in Evin Prison.  Except for a weekly visit, we have no contact to the outside. All visits takes place behind double glass and only connected through a phone. We are allowed to have a visit from our family members only once a month.

But it is the solitary confinement, which is beyond any kind of acceptable imprisonment. We – 25 women – have detained in total more than 12 years in solitary confinement. Political prisoners who are considered dangerous terrorists are held in solitary confinement indefinitely. Retention in solitary confinement can vary from a day up to several years.

However, according to regulations of the Islamic Republic of Iran, holding prisoners in solitary confinement is illegal. Unfortunately until now, the solitary confinement, as a psychological torture, has had many victims in Iran.

During 14 years long activity of the Center for Human Rights Defenders, the Center have published and held many protests against the use of this kind of punishment. But unfortunately the solitary confinement is still used against many of Iran’s political prisoners. The solitary confinement is used to get forced and false confessions out of the defendants. These false and faked confessions are used against the defendants during the trials. Many of the detainees in the solitary confinement are suffering from mental and physical health problems and the injuries will remain with them for the rest of their life. As a matter of a fact, the solitary confinement is nothing but a closed and dark room. A dimly confined space, deprived of all sounds and all light that can give the inmates a sense of humanity. Personally, I have been in solitary confinement three times since 2001. Once during my interrogation in 2010, I suffered a panic neurotic attacks, which I had never experienced before.

As a defender of human Right, who has experienced and have had dialogues with many people detained in solitary confinement, I emphasize that this kind of punishment is inhuman and can be considered psychological torture.

As a humble member of this prestigious organization, I urge all of you, as writers and defenders of the principles of free thought and freedom of speech and expression, to combat the use of solitary confinement as torture, with your pen, speech and all other means. Maybe one day we will be able  to close the doors behind us to solitary confinement and no one will be sentenced to prison for criticizing and demanding reforms. I hope that day will come soon.

Greetings and Regards

Narges Mohammadi

Prison Evin, May 2016

As an independent journalist, former vice-president and spokesperson of the Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC), and activist against the death penalty in Iran, Narges Mohammadi has long suffered from persecution at the hands of the Iranian authorities.

She has been banned from travelling abroad since 2009, and in the following year, Mohammadi was arrested from her home without a warrant and held in connection with her work with the DHRC.

In 2011, a Tehran court convicted Mohammadi of ‘acting against the national security’, ‘membership of the DHRC’ and ‘propaganda against the regime’ for her reporting on human rights violations, and she was sentenced to serve 6 years in prison (reduced from her original cumulative sentence of 11 years).  More recently, in May 2015 Mohammadi was arrested days after a fresh trial began on charges including “spreading propaganda against the system,” “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security” and “membership of an illegal organisation whose aim is to harm national security (Step by Step to Stop the Death Penalty).

Mohammadi is the mother of nine-year-old twins, and the wife of prominent journalist and activist Taghi Rahmani, who has spent a total of 17 years in prison.  They are both honorary members of Danish PEN.

After already having served 6 years, as of May, Mohammadi has now been sentenced to an additional 16 years imprisonment (of which she will serve at least 10 years, if the court’s decision is upheld).  Not only is Mohammadi a prisoner of conscience, but she also faces grave health concerns that are not being properly treated or recognized by Iranian authorities.    According to PEN International:

«Serious concerns for Mohammadi’s health persist following reports that she suffered several seizures in August and October 2015. According to reports, Mohammadi was taken to hospital on each occasion and on at least one instance she was returned to prison against medical advice. In a subsequent incident she was handcuffed to the bed for the first few days of her hospital stay.»

Through the Rapid Action Network, Norwegian PEN and the Writers in Prison Committee have appealed to the Iranian authorities for the immediate and unconditional release of Mohammadi.  Click here to read our letter.

In a May article, The Guardian commented on the international community’s reaction to Mohammadi’s imprisonment, and more specifically the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ condemnation of her 16-year sentence. To read the article, click here.