Iranian journalist Taghi Rahmani (C), husband of this year's winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Iranian human rights activist Narges Mohammadi (not in picture), and their children Ali Rahmani (L) and Kiana Rahmani (R) pose for a picture after signing the guest book at the Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway, on December 9, 2023.
Narges Mohammadi's children speak to CNN in exclusive interview
04:28 - Source: CNN
Oslo, Norway CNN  — 

At the age of four, Ali Rahmani realized his family would never lead an ordinary life.

He remembers the Iranian Revolutionary Guard arresting his father. Since then, he and his twin sister Kiana’s lives have been a series of arrests, separation and exile. If one parent is present, the other is in prison.

Now aged 17, the two will be accepting the Nobel peace prize this Sunday on behalf of their jailed mother, renowned Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi. Together they will deliver her Nobel lecture that was smuggled out of the notorious Evin prison.

“Standing here, I’m trying to visualize the crowd. We’ll be standing right there giving the speech,” Kiana tells CNN as they tour the Oslo City Hall in which the prestigious ceremony will be held.

They walk through the minimalistic seating arrangement under the towering murals towards the stage. Standing next to a portrait of their mother girdled by panels of purple orchids, Kiana says, “We will have to live up to all this. A lot of important people will be here…. This is mental preparation really.”

The two have not seen their mother since they were eight years old and haven’t spoken to her in nearly two years due to increasing restrictions on communication that got even more severe ahead of the ceremony. For her activism, campaigning for human rights, in support of political prisoners and against the death penalty, Mohammadi and her family have paid a hefty price.

She has been arrested 13 times, convicted for five and sentenced to a total of 31 years and 154 lashes.

“We are extremely proud of all that she has done. What really saddens us today is that she is not here, because we should not be the ones being interviewed. That’s my mother’s right but we’ll do our best to be her voice and represent what is happening in Iran,” Ali says.

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The responsibility of being the voice of not just their mother but their people weighs on them.

“We are not just here for us or our family, but for freedom and democracy and for the Woman Life Freedom movement,” Kiana says, referring to the nationwide protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Jhina Amini in the custody of Iran’s morality police in 2022.

It’s a road they don’t have to walk alone. In Oslo, they are continuously greeted by members of the Iranian diaspora who like their parents have paid for their dissent with years in prison or exile.

‘Disney mom’

They say they understand and accept the sacrifice, despite the impact it has had on their lives. They’ve lived with their father in self exile in France since 2015.

“Of course, at times in my life I wanted my mother by my side,” Kiana tells CNN. “At puberty, your body changes, that’s the kind of question you would ask your mom. I had no one to ask so I learned by myself. I would have loved it if she could have taken me shopping, taught me how to wear makeup and how to handle my body.”

She cherishes the childhood memories of her mother. “I’d describe her a bit like a Disney mom, a bit like in the movies,” Kiana says. “If we were hungry, we could eat as much ice cream as we wanted. If we wanted to help ourselves to more food, we always could. She did everything she could so that we would be comfortable and have stability in our lives. She played both roles really well just like my father does now.”

They last hugged her on the day of her arrest, when they were not yet nine years old. She made them breakfast, sent them to school and when they returned, she was gone.

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Both Ali and Kiana find solace in a simple realization. Despite their growing concerns about their mother’s deteriorating health, they believe the international recognition and pressure on Iran could save her life.

Ali notes how tormenting the news of executions of political prisoners have been, in addition to hundreds of others killed during protests. “A lot of our countrymen have lost their fathers, their mothers and their siblings,” he says.

“Frankly I’m just glad that she’s alive, because others have lost their loved ones and I can’t even imagine what that feels like,