The nominees for the 2023 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought - the European Parliament’s human rights prize - have been announced.
Each year Parliament awards the Sakharov Prize to honour exceptional individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. In 2022, the winners were the brave people of Ukraine, represented by their president, elected leaders and civil society.
Nominations are made by political groups or by at least 40 MEPs. This year’s nominations were presented during a meeting of the foreign affairs and development committees and the human rights subcommittee on 20 September 2023.
Nominees for the 2023 Sakharov Prize
The nominees are:
Mahsa Amini and the women of Iran were nominated by the European People’s Party. The 22-year-old Kurdish woman was visiting Tehran in September 2022, when she was arrested and beaten by the so-called moral police for wearing the hijab the “wrong” way. Her death a few days later sparked massive protests in Iran, with women at the forefront. Under the slogan “Woman, Life, Freedom”, they have been protesting against the hijab law and other discriminatory laws.
The Socialists and Democrats and Renew Europe have also nominated Mahsa Amini and the Woman, Life, Freedom Movement as representatives of the fight for women’s rights in Iran
Afghan education activists Marzia Amiri, Parasto Hakim and Matiullah Wesa were nominated by Petras Auštrevičius, Hannah Neumann and 57 other MEPs. Amiri founded Afghanistan's largest network of secret home schools. Hakim helped set up 90 community-based schools in the Uruzgan province. After the Taliban takeover, she initiated secret schools. Wesa, who challenged the Taliban decrees and continued his advocacy for girls’ education, was abducted five months ago.
The nomination of the European Conservatives and Reformists group are the pro-European people of Georgia and Nino Lomjaria, former public defender of Georgia, for efforts to defend their rights and safeguard democracy. As public defender, Lomjaria advocated for the rights of people facing discrimination - those who fled Russia-occupied regions of Georgia, ethnic and religious minorities, children and the disabled - and for free speech.
The Identity and Democracy group has nominated Elon Musk for exposing practices by Twitter’s (now X) previous management that were detrimental to users’ freedom of expression. He wants to end these practices and is against denying someone a platform because of their political views.
The Greens/European Free Alliance group nominated Vanessa Nakate, a young Ugandan committed to fighting against climate change and for human rights. She founded the first chapter of the climate movement Fridays For Future in Uganda and, with other young people in Africa, the Rise Up Movement.
Tilly Metz and 42 other MEPs nominated Vilma Núñez de Escorcia and Monsignor Rolando José Álvarez Lagos from Nicaragua. Nuñez has been fighting for the human rights of Nicaraguans for decades. Despite persecution, she remains in her country. Álvarez, Bishop of Matagalpa, has been one of the most outspoken critics of President Daniel Ortega’s regime. In February 2023, after refusing to leave the country, he was sentenced to 26 years in prison and his nationality was suspended.
The nomination of the Left group are women fighting for free, safe and legal abortion: Justyna Wydrzyńska, Morena Herrera, and Colleen McNicholas. Wydrzyńska is a Polish women’s rights defender and member of the Abortion Dream Team, who was sentenced to eight months community service for helping a woman obtain an abortion in Poland. Herrera is a feminist and social activist, advocating for safe and legal abortion access in El Salvador. McNicholas is an American obstetrician-gynaecologist with a strong track record of high-quality patient care and impactful reproductive health advocacy.
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 has is €50,000 prize money.
- 12 October: the foreign affairs and development committees announce the three finalists
- 19 October: Parliament President Roberta Metsola and the political group leaders decide on the winner
- 12 December: Sakharov Prize award ceremony takes place in Strasbourg