2023 Democracy Award—Movement: Women of Iran

The September 2022 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody in Iran sparked nationwide protests and gave birth to the Woman, Life, Freedom movement that has posed a serious challenge to the ruling dictatorship in the country. Young Iranian women’s bravery and resilience in the face of regime oppression and violence inspired Iranians of diverse backgrounds as tens of thousands of urban and rural men, workers, teachers, and civil society activists joined them throughout the country. The movement also inspired all freedom-loving people around the world, particularly young people, who voiced solidarity with the Iranian women’s struggle for freedom and dignity. Over a year later, Iranian women’s acts of defiance and fight for their fundamental rights continue.  We recognize the women of Iran for their determination and courage that inspired a global movement for justice. 


Mersedeh ShahinkarProtest Crackdown Victim, Activist, Coach 

Mersedeh Shahinkar is an Iranian fitness instructor who fearlessly stood up for her beliefs and the rights of women during the Women, Life, Freedom protests in Tehran and was partially blinded by Iranian security forces. She underwent several operations and then rejoined the protests on the streets of Tehran, wearing an eye patch that became an iconic symbol of her commitment and resilience. Her story quickly captured hearts and minds, going viral across social media platforms. In March 2023, faced with mounting threats to their safety, Mersedeh made the difficult decision to leave Iran for Germany, where she continues to be a vocal advocate for the freedoms and dignity of the Iranian people.