Shaparak Shajarizadeh, who was jailed and beaten in Iran for removing her headscarf in public protest will receive the Morris Abram Award, the UN Watch’s highest human rights distinction at the 2020 UN Watch Online Gala on 1 November. The award commemorates the legacy of the late Ambassador Morris Abram, founder of UN Watch, a civil rights advocate and diplomat, who in 1963 helped win the U.S. Supreme Court case that
granted equality to the votes of African-Americans.
Shaparak says she is greatly honored to receive this important international recognition which makes her feel more encouraged to continue her small share of changing the world. She says she accepts the award on behalf of the brave Iranian women and women around the world who are risking their lives each day to seize their dignity, fight for equality and defend human rights.
Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based non-governmental human rights organization, says Shaparak was chosen for her fearless defense of the rights of women for which she was brutalized. He says her mission to defend human dignity and equal rights of women in Iran has never been more vital.
“Shaparak became a leader in the Girls of Revolution Street and White Wednesday civil disobedience movements, protesting Iran’s compulsory hijab laws. She was arrested by the regime for taking off and waving her white headscarf in public, as part of a women’s rights protest that caused a social media storm,” says the executive director.
According to the executive director, once released from prison, Shaparak managed to escape the country, crossing the mountains into Turkey on foot. He says today she lives in Toronto where she continues to fight against Iran’s discrimination of women testifying at the Canadian Parliament and campaigning at public events and on social media.
Earlier this year, she called out Iran’s abuses at the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council in testimony organized by UN Watch. She has been outspoken in Time magazine and elsewhere on behalf of Nasrin Sotoudeh, her lawyer, currently imprisoned in Iran on a 38-year sentence for representing women opposed to the compulsory hijab, whom she credits with having saved her life.
Shaparak is a senior fellow at the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights and recently co-authored a book in French about her struggle Freedom is Not A Crime. In 2018, she was named by the BBC as one of the 100 most inspiring and influential women around the world