Women’s rights activist and former political prisoner Zeynab Bayazidi has been awarded the 2023 Daniele Po International Prize.

The award ceremony took place on 21 October in Pieve Di Cento, Bologna, Italy, and was attended by local and provincial authorities and representatives of civil society.

In her speech, Bayazidi paid tribute to the struggle and resistance of Zeynab Jalalian, the only female political prisoner sentenced to life imprisonment in Iran, and dedicated the award to her.

A statement from the awarding organisation said: “By awarding the Daniele Po Prize to Zeynab Bayazidi, we wish to honour the courage of resilient and transformative women, not only in Iran, but in all countries where the most basic human right, freedom, is denied. The selection of Zeynab Bayazidi, as a woman and a Kurd, who has always faced discrimination and oppression, represents a revolutionary movement taking place in Iran today. A movement that is leaderless but represents a people tired of a repressive religious regime. The slogan ‘Women Life Freedom’, which is echoed loudly in all the demonstrations of this movement, serves as a manifesto and marks a historic turning point on a global scale”.

The announcement also acknowledged Bayazidi’s activities that led to her arrest, imprisonment and eventual departure from the country.

“Even after leaving Iran, she has continued her commitment to raising international awareness, with a special focus on the situation of Kurdish women in Iran who face more persecution and harassment due to their Kurdish identity”, it said.

The Daniele Po International Prize was created in 2007 by Nedda Albergini and Fortunato Po, founders of the non-profit organisation Le Case degli Angeli di Daniele nel mondo, in memory of their son, Daniele.

The prize is awarded every year in October during a solemn ceremony in Pieve Di Cento, in the presence of local and provincial authorities and representatives of civil society, to those who defend human rights and promote peaceful values.

In the past, human rights defenders such as Malalai Joya from Afghanistan, Patricia Troncoso Robles from Chile, Marisla Ortiz Rivera from Mexico, Marie Beatrice Umutesi from Rwanda, Esoké Aikpitanyi from Nigeria, Delsha Osman from Rojava/Syria and groups such as Mothers for Peace from Kurdistan/Turkey have received the award.

Zeynab Bayazidi, this year’s winner, was born in 1982 in Mahabad, West Azerbaijan Province, and is a well-known and experienced Kurdish women’s rights activist in Kurdistan and Iran.

She has a long history of working with the group Kurdish Peace Mothers, the Kurdistan Human Rights Organisation and the One Million Signatures Campaign to change discriminatory laws against women.

Bayazidi was first arrested by security forces in Mahabad in 2005 for her civic activities and released on bail after 40 days.

The Islamic Revolutionary Court of Mahabad later sentenced her to six months’ suspended imprisonment for “propaganda against the state”.

In 2008, she was arrested a second time after being summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence office in Mahabad and taken directly to prison.

A month later, the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Mahabad sentenced her to four years’ imprisonment in exile in Zanjan, Zanjan Province, on charges of “propaganda against the state” and “acting against national security”.

Bayazidi was released in November 2012 after serving four and a half years in Zanjan and Mahabad.

A year later she was forced to leave the country due to security pressures. She is currently continuing her activities in Germany.

The Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN) congratulates Zeynab Bayazidi on receiving the Daniele Po International Prize and praises the valuable efforts of Kurdish women like her who represent the slogan and uprising of Women Life Freedom, which has now gained global attention beyond the borders of Kurdistan and Iran.