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Iran Mum On Sakharov Prize For Victim Of Government Violence

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Iranian authorities have not yet commented on the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Mahsa (Jina) Amini and the Woman, Life, Freedom movement it has ignited.

Following the Peace Nobel awarded to imprisoned human rights defender Narges Mohammadi last week, this marks the second international prize recognizing the efforts of Iranian women and their movement against the clerical regime in Iran. 

Last week, government officials condemned Mohammadi’s Nobel Peace Prize as a “politically motivated move” and accused Western governments, including Norway, of pursuing “anti-Iranian and interventionist policies.”

Just like with Mohammadi’s Nobel prize, none of the major news websites within Iran, including the relatively more independent websites, have reported on the Sakharov Prize being awarded to Amini and the Woman, Life, Freedom movement. The silence is presumably due to an unofficial ban imposed by the authorities. 

Nobel Peace Prize Narges Mohammadi during a rally in Tehran

The laureates for this year were announced by European Parliament President Roberta Metsola in the Strasbourg plenary chamber on Thursday. The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named after Russian scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, is presented to individuals or groups who have dedicated their lives to defending human rights and freedom of thought.

“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,” Metsola said. 

She also emphasized that by selecting Amini and the Woman, Life, Freedom movement as laureates, the European Parliament is “honoring their struggle and continuing to pay tribute to all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for liberty.”

The award ceremony will take place during the plenary sitting in Strasbourg on December 13.

Amini and the movement were nominated by the European People’s Party, Socialists & Democrats, and Renew Europe. Nominated by Identity and Democracy, business magnate Elon Musk was also among the eight other nominees for the prize. 

The prize was also awarded jointly to prominent Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and award winning dissident filmmaker Jafar Panahi in 2012. 

The prize was first awarded by the European Parliament in 1988 to anti-apartheid activist and later President of South Africa Nelson Mandela. Nobel Peace Prize recipient and seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan (2003), Cuba’s opposition movement and relatives of jailed dissidents known as Ladies in White and Reporters Without Borders (2005), and the winner of 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Malala Yousafzai (2013) are among other Sakharov laureates. 

“Jina my darling, wake up my sweet daughter and behold that your name is being echoed in the entire world now … You have a family as big as the entire people of the world today,” Jina’s mother Mozhgan Eftekhari said in an Instagram story Thursday after the announcement of the award. 

Mahsa (Jina) Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish girl from the city of Saqqez in western Iran, was arrested by police in Tehran on September 13, 2022, for allegedly ignoring Iran’s strict veiling laws, and died in a Tehran hospital three days later as a result of a head injury sustained while in custody. 

Another young girl, Armita Geravand (16), who similarly fell into a coma after being assaulted by hijab enforcers at Tehran subway on October 1, is still fighting for her life at a military hospital in Tehran. 

In both cases, authorities have exerted significant pressure on the victims’ families to align with the regime’s narrative. They have consistently avoided taking responsibility, instead attributing these incidents to the victims’ purported health conditions.

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