The European Parliament has awarded the 2023 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Jina Mahsa Amini and the women’s uprising that sparked after her death in Iranian morality police custody last year.
“The European Parliament proudly stands with the brave and defiant who continue to fight for equality, dignity and freedom in Iran. We stand with those who, even from prison, continue to keep Women, Life and Freedom alive,” EP President Roberta Metsola said as she announced the winners on Thursday.
Protests started in Iran’s capital Tehran and the Kurdistan Province, where Amini is from, upon her death on 16 September 2022, and have continued since. Amini was 22 when she died, after being arrested for an “improperly” worn mandatory hijab. Throughout a year of protests, Iranian state forces have killed more than 50 women, men and children.
“Women Life Freedom”, or Jin Jiyan Azadi in Kurdish and Zan Zendegi Azadi in Farsi, is a slogan born out of the Kurdish liberation movement and Kurdish feminism, called Jineology.
In the running for the prestigious prize for 2023 were Nicaraguan lawyer and bishop duo Vilma Núñez de Escorcia and Bishop Rolando José Álvarez for their human rights work, and Polish, Salvadoran and American activists Justyna Wydrzyńska, Morena Herrera and Colleen McNicholas for their fight for free, safe and legal abortions for women.
The award ceremony will be held on 13 December in Strasbourg.
Previous laureates include Leyla Zana, who was charged with treason for speaking a sentence in Kurdish and arrested in November 1994. One of the first Kurdish representatives in Turkey’s parliament, Zana swore her parliamentary oath as it was written, in Turkish, and added the sentence “I take this oath for the brotherhood between the Turkish people and the Kurdish people” in her native Kurdish. A ban on the Kurdish language in public had been lifted in January of the same year.