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Nobel Peace Prize winner vows Iranian people will ‘dismantle despotism’ in speech delivered by her children

<i>NTB/Javad Parsa/Reuters</i><br />Leader of the Nobel Committee Berit Reiss-Andersen presents Ali and Kiana Rahmani
NTB/Javad Parsa/Reuters
Leader of the Nobel Committee Berit Reiss-Andersen presents Ali and Kiana Rahmani

By Niamh Kennedy and Jomana Karadsheh, CNN

Oslo, Norway (CNN) — Imprisoned Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi paid tribute to the Iranian people’s determination to “dismantle” the “despotism and obstruction” of the Islamic Republic’s regime in her Nobel Peace Prize lecture delivered by her children, Kiana and Ali, on Sunday.

Her teenage twins, who have not seen their mother in years, accepted the award on her behalf at a ceremony in the Norwegian capital, Oslo.

Notable attendees included Iranian lawyer Shireen Ebadi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, and British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe, who shared a cell with Mohammadi during her six-year imprisonment.

The lecture was penned by Mohammadi from her prison cell in Tehran’s Evin prison. She won the award for what the Nobel Committee said was “her fight against the oppression of women in Iran and her fight to promote human rights and freedom for all.”

In the opening lines, Mohammadi, who has been sentenced to a total of 31 years in prison for her activism, described herself as one of the “millions of proud and resilient Iranian women who have risen up against oppression, repression, discrimination, and tyranny.”

In her lecture, Mohammadi charted the monumental impact of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” protests, which erupted across Iran in October 2022 following the death of a young Kurdish Iranian woman, Mahsa Amini, in morality police custody.

Mohammadi described it as a “movement for fundamental change,” spawning civil resistance in sectors across Iran.

“Resistance is alive, and the struggle endures,” she said.

“The Iranian people will dismantle obstruction and despotism through their persistence. Have no doubt – this is certain,” Mohammadi emphasized.

Mohammadi is among a handful of Nobel Peace Prize winners who were unable to accept the award in person.

‘Light of freedom and justice will shine’

Despite the groundswell of support from human rights organizations for Iranian protesters, Mohammadi said a “lack of serious attention” has been given to the situation in Iran.

“The policies and strategies of Western governments have been ineffectual in truly empowering the Iranian people to achieve their goals, making democracy more achievable in this part of the world, and ensuring peace,” Mohammadi highlighted.

She called on Western governments not to “postpone democracy” and avoid adapting “strategies focused on the continuation of the Islamic Republic’s rule.”

However, the final sentences of Mohammadi’s speech centered on a message of hope, expressing her confidence “that the light of freedom and justice will shine brightly on the land of Iran.”

The closing lines delivered by her 17-year-old son, Ali, were met by a standing ovation from the audience and cries of the Farsi chant: “Zan Zendegi Azadi,” the slogan of the recent protest movement.

Elahe Tavakolian, another guest at the ceremony who lost her eye in the protests last year, was met outside Oslo town hall by a small group of “Woman, Life, Freedom” protesters who chanted “Zan Zendegi Azadi” as soon as she walked out.

Kiana and Ali told CNN ahead of the ceremony that they have not seen their mother since they were eight years old and have not spoken to her in nearly two years due to increasing restrictions on communication that worsened ahead of the ceremony.

Mohammadi’s prison sentences keep increasing, for charges of conspiring against national security and spreading false propaganda, among others.

“I’m really not very optimistic about ever seeing [my mother] again,” said Kiana. “My mom has a 10-year sentence left and every time she does something, like sending out the speech we will read out at the ceremony, that adds to her sentence.”

Kiana added: “She will always be in my heart, and I accept that because the struggle, the movement, Woman Life Freedom, is worth it. Freedom and democracy are priceless. It’s all worth the sacrifice.”

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Sarah El Sirgany contributed to this report.

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