Welcome: Mike Schubert, Lord Mayor State Capital Potsdam
Laudation: Ursula von der Leyen, Presidenbt of the EU Commission
Acceptance Speech: Shima Babaei, Women’s Rights Activist, Iran
Political Statement: Mersedeh Shahinkar, Women’s Rights Activist, Iran
Political Statement: Düzen Tekkal and Jasmin Tabatabai
On the evening of 14 September 2023, the M100 Media Award was presented to the “Women, Life, Freedom” movement in Iran at the Orangerieschloss Sanssouci in Potsdam. The uprising started one year ago, on 16 September 2022, with the violent death of 22-year-old student Jina Mahsa Amini in police custody.
The high-profile European award was given to the Iranian “Women, Life, Freedom” movement, which started one year ago, on 16 September 2022, with the violent death of 22-year-old student Jina Mahsa Amini in police custody. The award honours the courageous women and girls, but also men, who protest against oppression and for freedom and human rights in their home countries. Iranian women’s rights activist Shima Babaei, who has been living in exile in Belgium since 2020, accepted the award on behalf of the movement.
“Today, with the M100 Media Award, we honour the ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ movement in Iran, which, despite threats of violence and draconian punishments, stands up for women’s rights as they are taken for granted in the civilized world,” said Potsdam’s Lord Mayor Mike Schubert in his welcome of the approximately 160 invited international guests: “Let us take today’s award ceremony as an inspiration to continue to work together to promote equality, human rights and democracy everywhere in the world. The Iranian women’s movement, just like our own Potsdam history, shows us that the will to overcome obstacles is too strong for petrified and encrusted regimes, that it is possible to shape a better future for all.”
“We honour all the heroes and heroines of the ‘Women, Life, Freedom’ movement with the M100 Award because we wholeheartedly support their fight for fundamental rights of freedom,” said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, in her laudation. She emphasized in particular: “We can already say with certainty today, that something historic is happening in Iran. For the first time, women in Iran are both the spark and the driving force of a revolution. And I bow to the courage of Iranian women who are leading the protest marches even before men. I am deeply impressed by the chutzpah of the young girls, the teenagers who burn their obligatory veils in the streets. Who put their young lives on the line because they want freedom and a better future. This is not just a turning point for hundreds of thousands of women and girls in the country. It is a deeper upheaval in the country. Because women are taking the lead. They are fighting for their personal freedom and at the same time for a more open and free Iran.”
Shima Babaei has been fighting against the oppression of women and the wearing of the hijab in her country since 2017. She was twice imprisoned in the notorious Evin prison, where she spent long periods in solitary confinement. In 2018, she and her husband fled Iran. With the resurgence of the Iranian protests a year ago and the founding of the ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ movement, she became one of the central voices in the Iranian diaspora: “Today I am here to tell you that our revolution, the women’s revolution for life and freedom, has not stopped. Many women are sending us the message, by removing the compulsory hijab and engaging in civil disobedience using their own hair, a message to the effect that we will not return to darkness. It is worth knowing that this revolution will continue until the day of victory and the fall of the anti-women, anti-life and anti-freedom dictatorship of the Islamic Republic. (…) I am here today to tell the Islamic Republic that my fight is not over. You are now facing a woman who defies you and who will not let your torture and crimes stop her. (…) I urge you to withdraw all forms of financial and moral support, as well as all commercial and political cooperation, with the regime in Tehran. Put the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on the list of terrorist organisations and understand that the future Iranian government, after overthrowing the mullahs, will be the best friend of Germany and other democratic and free countries.”
Shima Babaei then asked her friend Mersedeh Shahinkar, who arrived in Germany with her eleven-year-old daughter Roza two weeks ago, to come on stage. In moving words, the 39-year-old banker and fitness trainer also told a harrowing part of her own story: “The Islamic Republic retorted to my protest with bullets. I was on the streets almost every night to take part in the demonstrations. One night, as always, without a weapon in my hands, I was chanting slogans with my mother and friends when one of the forces of oppression casually and without hesitation shot me in the right eye. When I was rushed to hospital, my face bloodied, I took a photo of myself and shared it, showing the victory sign with my hand and smiling. After that, I continued to take part in the demonstrations, even with just one eye”.
Finally, German-Iranian actress and musician Jasmin Tabatabai and journalist and human rights activist Düzen Tekkal made a strong political statement on stage to not only leave it at expressions of support, but to actively support the revolution in Iran. This is not only a revolution that affects Iran, but the whole world.