The Nobel Peace Prize for 2023 was awarded to Iranian human rights activist Narges Mohammadi for her fight against the oppression of women and her efforts to promote human rights and freedom for all. The decision to honor Mohammadi has divided opinions, both within Iran and internationally.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee recognized Mohammadi’s dedication and work, stating that she fights for freedom of expression and independence, advocating against rules that require women to remain out of sight and cover their bodies. The committee emphasized that the freedom demands expressed by demonstrators in Iran apply not only to women but to the entire population.
Lana Fadai-Ravandi, Head of the Oriental Cultural Center at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, believes that the Nobel Peace Prize award to Mohammadi is a direct show of support for the Iranian opposition. The Iranian authorities view her activities as irreconcilable with Muslim commandments and consider the award as a hostile step. The recent passing of a law in Iran that increased punishment for violating the Culture of Chastity further highlights the conservative stance of the authorities.
Opinions in Iran are divided regarding Mohammadi and the awarding of the Nobel Prize. Some associate the hijab with chastity and support its imposition, while others, particularly those who prefer a Western way of life, oppose it. The impact of the prize on the situation inside Iran remains uncertain, as the authorities have been able to control protests and the economic situation has slightly improved.
Andrey Kortunov, Academic Director of the Russian International Affairs Council, believes that the Nobel Committee’s decision is politicized to a certain extent. Iran is expected to argue that the award aims to undermine the country’s foundations and traditional culture, while in the West, it will further stigmatize the Ayatollah’s regime as undemocratic, repressive, and medieval.
Political analyst Alexey Makarkin acknowledges that the decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Mohammadi is more controversial than previous Iranian laureates such as Shirin Ebadi in 2003. At that time, the reformist Muhammad Khatami was the President of Iran, and Ebadi was not imprisoned. The situation in Iran has significantly changed, with conservatives in power and Mohammadi incarcerated in Evin Prison in Tehran.
The Nobel Peace Prize remains both “Western” and “global.” While not welcomed by authorities in Tehran, Moscow, or Beijing, there is still no influential non-Western alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize. The issue of protecting women’s rights and freedom of speech has gained global attention due to media coverage and the internet, surpassing geographical boundaries.
The award to Mohammadi has sparked division within Iranian society, with some considering her a traitor and others hailing her as a heroine.
Fyodor Lukyanov, an international journalist and political analyst, considers the Nobel Committee’s decision traditional as it usually faces criticism for awarding politicians. However, the impact of the decision on the internal affairs of Iran is uncertain in today’s multipolar world, where external moral assessments are perceived differently and sometimes ignored.
Natalya Markushina, a professor of World Politics at St. Petersburg State University, acknowledges that recent Nobel Peace Prize recipients have been mainly human rights activists and public figures, avoiding the controversies that arose from awarding politicians like former US President Barack Obama. Mohammadi’s situation differs from previous Iranian laureates, as she is currently imprisoned and represents the opposition against the conservative Iranian authorities. The Nobel Committee’s decision is seen as a step in support of the opposition and a friendly message against Iranian policy.
Despite the Iranian authorities’ likely refusal to change their policy, the Nobel Committee’s decision demonstrates international support for the Iranian opposition and their fight for women’s rights and human rights.