“I was not allowed to hold my son Ali and my daughter Kiana when they were born because of my poor health. I was only able to see them through the door of the hospital room. It seems as if their fate was to be apart from me from birth. When I held them for the first time, all the scars from the caesarean, the difficulties I had breathing, the fear of death and all the pain were forgotten. I had become a mother.”
Narges is a renowned Iranian human rights defender and investigative journalist now held in the notorious Evin Prison as a result of her work to promote human rights in Iran. Narges is also President of the National Council of Peace in Iran, and Deputy Director of the Center for Human Rights Defenders (CHRD).
Narges has been a lifelong activist. While studying physics in university, Narges became involved in a number of student movements. She founded the highly political student group Tashakkol Daaneshjooei Roshangaraan (Illuminating Student Group) and wrote numerous articles for the university newspaper about student activism and women’s rights. Her outspoken and courageous writing and political activities did not go unnoticed. State officials arrested Narges twice during her university days.
Despite the arrests, Narges continued to speak out for women’s rights. She became a journalist for the Iranian magazine Payaam-e Haajar – a historical publication that discussed women’s rights, equality, and women’s roles within the Islamic Revolution. Shortly after the Iranian government banned the publication, Narges joined the Center for Human Rights Defenders (CHRD). It was here that she met and developed a close friendship with Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, co-founder of the Center. Together they paved the way for a better future in Iran by providing legal support to activists and political prisoners and their families, documenting human rights violations, advocating for ethical elections and campaigning to abolish the death penalty.
In 2009, the government banned Narges from leaving the country and ordered her to stop her work. Narges bravely forged ahead—and later that year was arrested and placed in solitary confinement. The court sentenced Narges to 11 years in prison for colluding against national security, generating propaganda against the state and being part of the CHRD. While in prison, Narges developed a serious neurological condition. She was released on bail for medical reasons in 2013.
Narges was determined to get back to work. However this past May, after meeting with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the Iranian government arrested Narges again. The government is now forcing her to serve the remainder of her original six-year sentence. The government is denying Narges proper medical treatment and is preventing normal family visitation, including barring her from contacting her two children.
Narges has dedicated her life to ensuring the basic human rights of Iranians are protected. The Iranian regime’s improper treatment of Narges is just one example of the country’s attempt at silencing the voices of activists and intellectuals fighting for basic rights.