Mahsa Amini Posthumously Awarded EU's Top Human Rights Prize

Mahsa Amini Posthumously Awarded EU's Top Human Rights Prize
Source: © Gayatri Malhotra via Unsplash 2023


Emily Wolfe 

Europe and Human Rights Researcher,

Global Human Rights Defence

In a powerful testament to the enduring fight for human rights and freedom, Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish Iranian woman who lost her life in police custody in Iran last year, has been posthumously honoured with the European Union's prestigious Sakharov Prize. This award, named after the renowned Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, is bestowed upon individuals or groups who have demonstrated exceptional courage and commitment in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Mahsa Amini's story captured the world's attention when she died on September 16, 2022, just three days after being arrested for allegedly violating Iran's mandatory headscarf law. Her untimely and tragic death marked a turning point in the ongoing struggle for women’s rights in Iran. European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, speaking about the significance of this moment, declared that Mahsa Amini's "brutal murder" had ignited a women-led movement that would go down in history. This award was not only given to Amini, but also extended to the broader movement she represented — the Woman, Life, Freedom movement in Iran. Metsola emphasized that Amini's death had led to the emergence of a powerful global movement, symbolized by the rallying cry of "women, life, liberty." These three words have become emblematic of the quest for equality, dignity, and freedom in Iran.

A year after Amini's death, the Iranian regime clamped down on the wave of anti-regime protests that had erupted in response to her tragic fate. Despite the government's efforts to suppress these demonstrations, Amini's story continues to inspire ordinary Iranians. Her legacy serves as a beacon of hope, reminding the world that the fight for freedom and human rights persists. Amini's recognition through the Sakharov Prize mirrors other recent acknowledgments of Iranian women's resilience and courage. Narges Mohammadi received the Nobel Peace Prize, and now Mahsa Amini posthumously joins this prestigious list. These awards signal that the world is indeed listening to the voices of those who dare to stand up against injustice and oppression.

However, as the global community celebrates these achievements, it's essential not to forget the ongoing struggles faced by Iranian activists, both within the country and in exile. Threats, harassment, and new legislation such as the chastity and hijab law pose significant challenges to those fighting for basic human rights, including the freedom to choose what to wear. As Mahsa Amini's legacy lives on, so too does the hope for a brighter future for all Iranians.

Sources and Further Reading:

Deepa Parent. (2023, October 19). Mahsa Amini awarded EU Sakharov human rights prize for Iran. The Guardian. Retrieve on October 23, 2023 from