An activist from Ukraine received the Swedish prize in the field of human rights protection

An award ceremony will be held in the Stockholm Concert Hall on Februari 1, 2023. The ceremony will be also be broadcasted live on the memorial fund’s website www.palmefonden.se

Photo: Eren Keskin: Jonatan Karreskog

Three women from Ukraine, Iran and Turkey on Monday received the 2023 Olof Palme human rights award from Sweden for protecting women’s rights and freedoms.

Marta Chumalo from Ukraine, Narges Mohammadi from Iran and Eren Keskin from Turkey were awarded for their “efforts in the struggle to ensure women’s freedom at a time when human rights are threatened by war, violence, and oppression”. This is stated in the statement of the Olof Palme Memorial Foundation.

Marta Chumalo is a feminist, gender expert and psychologist. As one of the founders of the centre “Women’s Perspectives”, she has been working to support women exposed to violence for twenty years. Since 2014, and especially since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Marta Chumalo has been heavily involved in raising awareness about the war’s effects and addressing its victims’ needs. Amongst other things, Marta Chumalo demands an effective implementation of the Istanbul Convention to support victims of sexual violence in the war.

Eren Keskin is a human rights lawyer who has spent decades defending those discriminated against in her country: ethnic minorities, LGBTQI+ people, and refugees. She has been subjected to accusations, death threats, and hundreds of prosecutions. She has also been imprisoned for her beliefs, with Amnesty International declaring her a prisoner of conscience. By establishing The Association of Legal Aid Against Sexual Violence, she has succeeded in having several senior military and authority figures prosecuted over the years.

Narges Mohammadi is a journalist and human rights activist who has been a central figure in the struggle for women’s rights and freedom of speech in Iran. She is one of the founders of the Iranian National Peace Council and a figurehead in organizations such as Defenders of Human Rights Centre and Legam (the Campaign for Step-by-Step Abolition of the Death Penalty). Her involvement has led to her repeated arrest, and she has served several prison terms. Since November 2021, she has been incarcerated in the infamous Evin Prison, convicted of “propaganda activity against the state.”

“Since 2014, and especially after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Marta Chumalo has been actively raising awareness of the consequences of war and helping victims of war,” the foundation said in a statement.

“It is a great surprise and a great honor for me to receive such a prestigious award – the Olof Palme Award! And this is a great reason to speak at all levels about the fact that women’s rights, especially in wartime, are often neglected and violated. And for me, this award is a visual recognition of the efforts that Ukrainian feminists are making now in Ukraine and abroad to help the affected women and children to be safe, to reduce the devastating consequences of the war, and to attract solidarity support for Ukraine from all over the world.” Marta Chumalo wrote on Facebook.

Journalist and human rights defender Mohammadi “was a central figure in the fight for women’s rights and freedom of speech in Iran,” the jury said.

She was one of the founders of the Iranian National Peace Council. For her participation in the protection of women’s rights, “she was repeatedly arrested, and she served several times in prison.”

She has been in prison since November 2021 after being convicted of “propaganda activities against the state”, the foundation said.

Human rights lawyer Eren Keskin was honored for decades of defending those discriminated against in her country, including “ethnic minorities, LGBTQI+ people, and refugees”.

The organizers of the prize noted that Keskin had received death threats and harassment, she was also “imprisoned for her convictions”, and Amnesty International called her a “prisoner of conscience”.

The award ceremony will take place on February 1 in Stockholm.

The Olof Palme Prize is an annual award of US$100,000 awarded by the Olof Palme Memorial Foundation.

The award commemorates Sweden’s Social Democrat Prime Minister Olof Palme, an outspoken international human rights advocate — and staunch opponent of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War — who was assassinated in Stockholm in 1986.

Since 1987, the award has honored human rights defenders worldwide, including Congolese doctor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Denis Mukwege, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.

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