Sakharov Prize 2023 awarded to Jina Mahsa Amini and “Woman, Life, Freedom” from Iran

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Ali and Kiana Rahmani, children of Narges Mohammadi, an imprisoned Iranian human rights activist, hold the Nobel Peace Prize 2023 award, accepting it on behalf of their mother at Oslo City Hall, Norway December 10, 2023. NTB/Fredrik Varfjell via REUTERS

The European Parliament has awarded its 2023 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Jina Mahsa Amini and the ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ movement in Iran.

Jina Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman, was arrested by police in Tehran on September 13, 2022, accused of disobeying the country’s strict Islamic veiling laws. She died in hospital three days later due to the physical abuse she was subjected to in detention. Her death sparked massive protests across the country, which were led by women.

Under the slogan “Woman, Life, Freedom”, women have been protesting against the Islamic veil law and other discriminatory laws since the death of Jina Mahsa Amini.

The laureates were represented at Tuesday’s ceremony in Strasbourg by Saleh Nikbakht, a professor and lawyer for Jina Mahsa Amini’s family, and by Afsoon Najafi and Mersedeh Shahinkar, defenders of Iranian women’s rights who left Iran in 2023.

On December 8, 2023, on their way to France to receive the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, Jina Mahsa Amini’s parents and brother were stopped by Iranian authorities at Tehran airport and had their passports confiscated. They are now subject to a travel ban.

The Parliament’s president Roberta Metsola said that the award “serves as a tribute to all the brave and defiant women, men and young people in Iran, who, despite coming under increasing pressure, are continuing the fight for their rights and push for change”.

Established in 1988, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named in honour of Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov, is awarded each year by the European Parliament to honour individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.

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