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Physicist Narges Mohammadi to be awarded the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize.

Physicist Narges Mohammadi to be awarded the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize

6 October 2023

The Iranian physicist, engineer, and activist, currently incarcerated in Tehran, is a leading voice for women’s and human rights in the country.

Narges Mohammadi, an Iranian physicist, engineer, and human rights activist, is to be awarded the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced on Friday. The committee cited “her fight against the oppression of women in Iran and her fight to promote human rights and freedom for all.” Mohammadi is currently imprisoned in Tehran, having been arrested, jailed, and tortured multiple times because of her activism.

Narges Mohammadi.
Credit: Taghi Rahmani

Mohammadi was born in 1972 in Zanjan, Iran. She majored in physics at Imam Khomeini International University in Qazvin, about 150 kilometers from Tehran. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she took a job as an engineer at the Iran Engineering Inspection Corporation while also working as a journalist specializing in human rights issues.

Mohammadi’s human rights efforts have focused on the rights of women and prisoners of conscience in Iran, and she has spoken out against torture, the death penalty, and the sexual and physical abuse of women and detainees. She has served in several leadership positions, including vice president and spokesperson of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, which has provided pro bono legal assistance to prisoners of conscience and people accused of political crimes.

The Committee of Concerned Scientists, which works to protect the human rights and scientific freedom of scholars worldwide, praised Mohammadi as “an example of selfless determination to achieve gender equity in Iran” in an emailed statement applauding the Nobel decision. Women make up the majority of university graduates in Iran, the group noted. Students and faculty members are among those who have been arrested in the aftermath of recent protests that were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old who in September 2022 was arrested for wearing her hijab too loosely and then died in police custody. (See also “STEM scholars worldwide express solidarity with Iranian protesters,” Physics Today, 19 October 2022.)

Mohammadi has received multiple awards for her activism, including the 2018 Andrei Sakharov Prize of the American Physical Society. (Sakharov received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975.) The Sakharov Prize citation noted that the discrimination she faced as a result of her human rights work “forced her to suspend her scientific pursuits and endure lengthy incarceration.” In an open letter that was read at the 2018 APS award ceremony, Mohammadi wrote, “I will continue my efforts until we achieve peace, tolerance for a plurality of views, and human rights.”

Additional reporting by Joanna Behrman.

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