Mahsa Amini and Woman, Life, Freedom Movement honored with EU’s 2023 Sakharov Prize

At a ceremony held on Tuesday, the European Parliament bestowed the 2023 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought upon Jina Mahsa Amini and the Woman, Life, Freedom movement in Iran.

The laureates were represented by Saleh Nikbakht, an academic and lawyer representing Jina Mahsa Amini’s family, along with Afsoon Najafi and Mersedeh Shahinkar, Iranian women’s rights defenders who left Iran in 2023.

Opening the ceremony, President Metsola stated, “This year’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, awarded to Jina Masha Amini and the Woman, Life, Freedom movement, serves as a tribute to all the brave and defiant women, men, and young people in Iran. Despite increasing pressure, they continue the fight for their rights and push for change. The European Parliament hears you and supports you. You are not alone.”

Jina Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman, was arrested in Tehran on September 13, 2022, for allegedly disregarding Iran’s strict veiling laws. Tragically, she passed away in the hospital three days later due to physical abuse suffered while in custody. Her death ignited widespread women-led protests across Iran, rallying under the banner “Woman, Life, Freedom,” protesting against hijab rules and discriminatory laws.

On their way to France to accept the EP 2023 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought on December 8, 2023, Jina Mahsa Amini’s parents and brother were stopped at Tehran airport, their passports confiscated, and they are now subject to a travel ban. President Roberta Metsola called on the Iranian regime to reverse this decision.

The family was represented in Strasbourg by their lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, who conveyed a message from Jina Mahsa Amini’s mother, Mozhgan Eftekhari, during the ceremony: “Jina’s grief is eternal to me, and she is undying for people all over the world. I firmly believe that her name, beside that of Joan of Arc, will remain a symbol of freedom. From the birthplace of eternal Jina, I convey to you my and my family’s endless gratitude, and I hope that you will stand firm and proud by your choice. Let us hope that no voice will fear the pronouncement of liberty.”