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Zhina Amini awarded top EU human rights prize

2023-10-19 12:46:25

Mahsa Amini and the Woman, Life and Freedom Movement in Iran were on Thursday awarded the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

"The 16 September 2022 is a date that will live in infamy and the brutal murder of 22-year-old Jina Mahsa Amini marked a turning point. It has triggered a women-led movement that is making history," European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said after announcing the winner. 

"The world has heard the chants of "women, life, liberty", three words that have become a rallying cry for all those standing up for equality, for dignity and for freedom in Iran. 

"So let's today's prize serve as a tribute to the brave and defiant women, men and young people of Iran who despite coming under increasing pressure are leading the push for change. The European Parliament hears you, the world sees you and we are with you," she added. 

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, given each year since 1988 by the European Parliament, is the European Union's highest tribute to human rights defenders and comes with a €50,000 endowment. 

Last year it was awarded to the "brave people" of Ukraine defending their country against Russia's relentless invasion.

Women rights' defenders and Nicaraguan activists

Two other nominees made it on the finalist shortlist.

Women fighting for free, safe and legal abortion were nominated by the Left group which highlighted three women in particular including Justyna Wydrzyńska. The Polish activist is a member of the Abortion Dream Team, a grassroots initiative that provides direct and immediate assistance to women who need abortions. She was sentenced to eight months community service for helping a woman obtain an abortion in Poland, whose government rolled out a near-total ban on pregnancy terminations in 2021.

The two other women included were Morena Herrera, a feminist and social activist, advocating for safe and legal abortion access in El Salvador, and Colleen McNicholas, an American obstetrician-gynaecologist with a strong track record of high-quality patient care and impactful reproductive health advocacy.

The nomination of Vilma Núñez de Escorcia and Monsignor Rolando José Álvarez Lagos from Nicaragua was meanwhile backed by 43 MEPs.

Nuñez is a lawyer and human rights activist who has chosen to remain in the country despite being jailed and tortured. Álvarez, Bishop of Matagalpa, is a vocal critic of President Daniel Ortega's Sandinista regime. He was sentenced to 26 years in prison earlier this year and his nationality was suspended after he was charged with treason, undermining national integrity and spreading false news. 

The prize will be given at a ceremony in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 13 December. 

The Prize is named in honour of Soviet physicist and political dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov.


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