STRASBOURG, France: EU lawmakers present a top rights prize to Mahsa Amini, whose death in Iranian custody sparked mass protests, but her family won’t attend after being blocked by Tehran.
The award — also for the broader “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement — is the latest international recognition for the women challenging Iran’s religious government after jailed activist Narges Mohammadi was given the Nobel Peace Prize.
Amini’s mother, father and brother will miss the ceremony at the European Parliament in the French city of Strasbourg as Iran’s authorities confiscated their passports and barred them from flying to collect the EU’s Sakharov Prize.
Iranian Kurd Amini died on September 16, 2022 at the age of 22 while being held by Iran’s religious police for allegedly breaching the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women.
Her death triggered major protests in Iran and a global movement known as “Woman, Life, Freedom”, calling for the end of the Muslim cleric-led government in Tehran and its imposition of headscarves on women.
Iranian security forces have cracked down on the protests domestically, killing hundreds, and have executed dozens for allegedly participating in what officials have called “riots”.
The refusal by Iran’s government to let Amini’s family attend has caused outrage among EU lawmakers, who said Tehran is seeking to stifle her supporters.
“This restriction is aimed at silencing Jina Mahsa Amini’s family, preventing them from speaking out about the Islamic Republic’s outrageous repression of women’s rights, human rights and fundamental freedoms in Iran,” 116 MEPs wrote in a letter.
“We cannot tolerate this, the truth must not be silenced and the face of this incredible liberation movement should be shown to Europe and the world.”
Amini’s family will instead be represented by their Iranian lawyer Saleh Nikbakht at the ceremony.
Nikbakht said at a meeting with lawmakers on Monday that Amini’s family had informed the authorities they were planning to travel but were stopped at the last moment.
Two prominent activists living in exile outside Iran — Afsoon Najafi and Mersedeh Shahinkar — will also pick up the award in the name of the broader movement.
Najafi’s sister died during the anti-government protests that swept Iran in the wake of Amini’s death. Shahinkar was shot in the eye by security forces.
“I will never stay silent and I will carry on the path I’ve chosen to be a voice of my people in any way possible,” Shahinkar told lawmakers.
“I’m going to show that my people do not want the Islamic Republic regime.”
Nobel peace prize winner Mohammadi — who has been detained since 2021 in Tehran’s Evin prison — was also unable to pick up the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on Sunday.
Mohammadi was one of the women spearheading the “Woman, Life, Freedom” uprising.
Mohammadi’s twin children Ali and Kiana instead received the award on her behalf, and read out a speech that was smuggled out of jail denouncing the “tyrannical and anti-women religious” government. AFP
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