Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody in Iran, awarded EU human rights prize

Story by By Associated Press Reporters

Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman who died in police custody in Iran last year, sparking worldwide protests against the country’s conservative Islamic theocracy, has been awarded the European Union (EU)’s top human rights prize.

The EU award, named for Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, was created in 1988 to honour individuals or groups who defend human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Mr Sakharov, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, died in 1989.

Other finalists this year included Vilma Nunez de Escorcia and Roman Catholic Bishop Rolando Alvarez — two emblematic figures in the fight for the defence of human rights in Nicaragua — and a trio of women from Poland, El Salvador and the United States leading a fight for “free, safe and legal abortion”.

Ms Amini died on September 16 2022 after being arrested for allegedly violating Iran’s mandatory headscarf law.

European Parliament president Roberta Metsola said that day will “live in infamy”, adding that Ms Amini’s ”brutal murder” marked a turning point.

“It has triggered a women-led movement that is making history,” she said as she announced the awarding of the prize to Ms Amini and the Woman, Life, Freedom movement in Iran.

Related video: Mahsa Amini and Woman, Life and Freedom Movement in Iran awarded top EU human rights prize (Dailymotion)

“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,” Ms Metsola said.

Ms Amini died three days after being arrested by Iran’s morality police.

While authorities said she suffered a heart attack, her supporters said she was beaten by police and died as a result of her injuries.

A woman holds a placard with a picture of Mahsa Amini during a protest against her death in Berlin in September 2022 (Markus Schreiber/AP)© Provided by PA Media

Her death triggered protests which spread across the country and rapidly escalated into calls for the overthrow of Iran’s four-decade-old Islamic theocracy.

Authorities responded with a violent crackdown in which more than 500 people were killed and more than 22,000 others were detained, according to rights groups.

The demonstrations largely died down early this year but there are still widespread signs of discontent.

For several months, women could be seen openly flaunting the headscarf rule in Tehran and other cities, prompting a renewed crackdown over the summer.

The award ceremony will take place on December 13.

Last year’s prize was awarded to the people of Ukraine and their representatives for their resistance to Russia’s invasion and defiance during the ongoing war.

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