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Sakharov Prize 2023: The finalists 

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The finalists for the 2023 Sakharov Prize are women in Iran fighting for their rights, human rights defenders from Nicaragua and legal abortion activists, EU affairs.

This year’s finalists for the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought were chosen in a vote by the foreign affairs and development committees on 12 October.

The 2023 Sakharov Prize finalists 

  • Jina Mahsa Amini and the Woman, Life Freedom Movement in Iran 
  • Vilma Núñez de Escorcia and Bishop Rolando José Álvarez Lagos from Nicaragua 
  • Women fighting for a free, safe and legal abortion in Poland, El Salvador and the US 

Jina Mahsa Amini and the Woman, Life and Freedom Movement in Iran

Jina Mahsa Amini, a 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 a 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.

Vilma Núñez de Escorcia and Bishop Rolando José Álvarez Lagos from Nicaragua

Vilma Nuñez has been fighting for the human rights of Nicaraguans for decades. Despite persecution, she remains in her country. Rolando 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.

Women fighting for a free, safe and legal abortion in Poland, El Salvador and the USA

Justyna 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. Morena Herrera is a feminist and social activist, advocating for safe and legal abortion access in El Salvador. Colleen McNicholas is an American obstetrician-gynaecologist with a strong track record of high-quality patient care and impactful reproductive health advocacy.

The finalists were selected by MEPs from a longer list of nominations made by political groups or groups of at least 40 MEPs. Find out more about the Sakharov Prize 2023 nominees.

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Background

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 €50,000 in prize money.

Timeline 

  • 19 October: Parliament President Roberta Metsola and the political group leaders decide on the winner  
  • 13 December: the Sakharov Prize award ceremony takes place in Strasbourg  

Press release 

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