Imprisoned Iranian human rights activist Narges Mohammadi has started a hunger strike, a month after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, her family said.
The 51-year-old woman is protesting Iran’s refusal to provide medical care to her and other detainees and the law on compulsory hijab, according to a statement.
She needs treatment for heart and lung problems, but a prosecutor is blocking her transfer to hospital, it is said.
Last week, her family said it was because she refused to cover her hair.
The president of the Norwegian Nobel Committee – which awarded Ms Mohammadi the peace prize for “her fight against the oppression of women in Iran” – said she was deeply concerned.
“The requirement that inmates wear a hijab to be hospitalized is inhumane and morally unacceptable,” Berit Reiss-Andersen said, according to the AFP news agency.
There was no immediate comment from Iran’s justice system or prison authorities.
She explained that she was protesting against two things: “the policy of the Islamic Republic of delaying and neglecting medical care for sick detainees, resulting in loss of health and life of individuals”, and “the policy of “death” or “compulsory hijab”. ‘for Iranian women’.
A prosecutor opposed Ms Mohammadi’s transfer to hospital for treatment for a week, despite repeated appeals to prison authorities and the judiciary, he added.
“According to the diagnosis and echocardiogram of a trusted prison doctor, she needs to be urgently transferred to the Heart and Lung Center for urgent medical care.”
Last Wednesday, Ms. Mohammadi’s family said other detainees from Evin had protested for two days and nights to pressure authorities to transfer her to hospital.
However, they add, “the prison director announced that, according to orders from higher authorities, it was forbidden to send him to the heart hospital without a headscarf.”
Ms. Mohammadi, vice-president of the Center for Human Rights Defenders in Iran, is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence.
She was arrested a total of 13 times, convicted five times, and sentenced to a total of 31 years in prison. She was also sentenced to 154 lashes, although it is unclear whether this sentence was carried out.
Under Iranian law, which is based on the country’s interpretation of sharia law, women must cover their hair with a headscarf and wear long, loose clothing to conceal their figure.
In September 2022, mass protests erupted across Iran in response to the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a young woman arrested by morality police for allegedly wearing an “inappropriate” hijab.
Women and girls burned their headscarves or waved them in the air during protests against the religious establishment. Many have even stopped covering their hair in public altogether.