The 2021 finalists for the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought are Afghan women, Jeanine Áñez and Alexei Navalny.
Meet this year’s finalists of the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, who were chosen at a joint meeting of the foreign affairs and development committees on 14 October:
- Afghan women, represented by 11 human rights activists
- Jeanine Áñez, Bolivian politician
- Alexei Navalny, Russian activist and political prisoner
Under the previous Taliban regime, women experienced forced marriage, high maternity mortality, low literacy, forced virginity tests and couldn’t travel without a man. Following the Taliban's return to power, women are again excluded from government and education and their rights and freedoms are threatened. The women, who are nominated for their brave fight for equality and human rights, are:
- Shaharzad Akbar - chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC)
- Mary Akrami - head of the Afghan Women's Network
- Zarifa Ghafari - mayor of Maidan Shar since 2018
- Palwasha Hassan - activist and the director of Afghan Women Educational Centre (AWEC)
- Freshta Karim - founder of a mobile library and an advocate for education and learning
- Sahraa Karimi - first female president of the Afghan state film company
- Metra Mehran - women empowerment and education advocate and co-founder of the Feminine Perspectives Movement
- Horia Mosadiq - human and women's rights activist
- Sima Samar - human rights advocate, former Minister of Women’s Affairs and former chair of Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission
- Habiba Sarabi - member of the negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
- Anisa Shaheed - political reporter
Jeanine Áñez is a Bolivian politician who became the interim president of her country in November 2019, after alleged electoral fraud by incumbent Evo Morales. In November 2020, after free and fair elections there was a peaceful transfer of power. However, on 13 March 2021 she was arrested on charges of “terrorism, sedition and conspiracy”. Accused of plotting a coup d’état against Morales, she has been imprisoned ever since.
Alexei Navalny is a Russian opposition politician, anti-corruption activist and major political opponent of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Known through his LiveJournal blog, YouTube and Twitter accounts, where he has millions of followers Navalny came to international prominence by organising demonstrations, running for office and advocating reforms against corruption in Russia, Putin and his government. In August 2020, while on a trip to Siberia, he was poisoned. He spent months recovering in Berlin, but returned to Moscow in January 2021 where he was arrested. In February he was sentenced to 2½ years in prison. Now incarcerated in a high-security penal colony, he went on a 23-day hunger strike in April to protest the lack of medical care. In June 2021, a Russian court banned Navalny’s regional offices and his Anti-Corruption Foundation.
The annual Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought has been awarded to individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms since 1988. It is named in honour of Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov and the prize money is €50 000. In 2020, the prize went to the Belarussian opposition for defending democracy in the country.
- 20 October: the winner is decided by Parliament President David Sassoli and the political group leaders
- 15 December: Sakharov Prize award ceremony in Strasbourg