The movement for Iranian women’s freedom, which has resonated around the world after the 2022 death of student Mahsa Amini at the hands of the country’s “morality police,” will receive a prestigious recognition in Paris next week.
The jury of the Simone de Beauvoir Prize for Women’s Freedom has unanimously chosen this year to honor the “Woman, Life, Freedom!” movement, in memory of Amini.
The prize, created in 2008 in honor of the French feminist philosopher and author of “The Second Sex,” is awarded annually to a person or group that defends and promotes women’s freedom.
Previous awardees have included the Iranian organization One Million Signatures, which initiated the petition to put an end to discriminatory laws against women in 1979; Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and Pakistani activist for the education of girls whom the Taliban attempted to assassinate; Giusi Nicolini, the mayor of the Italian island of Lampedusa, who fights for the rights of refugees and migrants; the Polish abortion rights movement Save Women and its leader, Barbara Nowacka; the 490 Collective movement for women’s rights in Morocco, and its leaders, the authors Leila Slimani and Sonia Terrab and Taslima Nasreen, the Bangladeshi writer on human rights who is living in exile under multiple fatwas calling for her death.
De Beauvoir, who died in 1986, had a deep connection to Iran. Her 1949 book, originally titled “Le deuxième sexe,” was read widely by Iranian feminists and activists. De Beauvoir supported the revolt of Iranian women against Ayatollah Khomeini, who came to power in 1979 and imposed fundamentalist rule, including making wearing the veil mandatory and other restrictions on women.
“Woman, Life, Freedom!” is the cry that sprang up after Amini’s death on Sept. 16, 2022.
Amini, a 22-year-old student from Kurdistan, had been arrested three days earlier because a few strands of hair had come loose from her veil. Accused by the Iranian police of “improper clothing,” she was imprisoned and beaten. After falling into a coma, she died in the hospital.
The news of Amini’s death unleashed an insurrectional movement in Iran that is unmatched in recent times. Women have been removing their veils in public, cutting their hair, and demonstrating in the streets. Their protest has garnered worldwide support from women and men alike, especially among younger generations who see this as the “battle of their lifetime,” according to news reports.
By awarding its 2023 prize to Iranian women and in memory of Amini, the jury seeks to express its “full support of the widening of the revolt into a revolutionary movement,” according to a statement from the Simone de Beauvoir prize committee.
The 2023 award will be presented Monday, Jan. 9, Simone de Beauvoir’s birthday, in a ceremony open to the public presided over by Sylvie Le Bon-de Beauvoir, a professor of philosophy, author, and Simone de Beauvoir’s adopted daughter. It will be held at 11 a.m. at the Maison de l’Amérique Latine, 17 boulevard Saint-Germain, 75005 Paris.
The day’s events will include a panel discussion, “’Woman, Life, Freedom! An Existential Revolution,” at 6 p.m. in the auditorium at Le Monde, 67-69 avenue Pierre Mendès-France, 75013 Paris.
The panel, moderated by Virginie Larousse of Le Monde, will consist of Chahla Chafiq, an Iranian sociologist and the author of the 2019 book, “Le rendez-vous iranien de Simone de Beauvoir”; Fawzia Zouan, president of the Parlement des écrivaines francophones; Farzaneh Milani, an Iranian-born American scholar, author, poet, translator, and educator; and Sedef Ecer, a French-Turkish novelist and playwright.
Both the prize ceremony and the panel discussion are open to the public, but space is limited. To register in advance, click on this link.