Birmingham activist Saffiyah Khan, who was propelled to international recognition after standing up to an EDL thug earlier this year, has been named of one of Stylist magazine’s Women of the Year.

The 20-year-old protester has been included in a list of ten specially selected women of “courage and determination” who have had a positive impact on British life during difficult times this past year.

In what has since become an internationally iconic photograph, young activist Khan was snapped staring down an English Defence League ruffian during a demonstration in Birmingham city centre in April, and the photo quickly went viral.

The stark contrast between the angry hate-filled far-right figure – against the composed and smiling Saffiyah – made the image an instant hit across the world.

Following Birmingham-born Saffiyah’s act of bravery, she immediately became an international icon, with her image being featured in news stories across the world. The famous Press Association photograph of her, captured by Joe Giddens, has been reproduced and interpreted by artists across the globe.

Saffiyah Khan has since continued to pursue her social and political activism, supporting and speaking at events with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, appearing on TV shows including The Last Leg, while recently hosting a photo exhibition in her home city, trying her hand at modelling, and attending social justice Q&A events.

Saffiyah Khan on stage in Birmingham with Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn in JuneAdam Yosef / I Am Birmingham
Saffiyah Khan on stage in Birmingham with Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn in June

Such was the impact of her documented anti-racism stance, music artist Billy Bragg wrote and featured the song ‘Saffiyah Smiles‘ on his new album, in tribute to Khan.

Photographed for Stylist magazine by Mark Harrison, Saffiyah appears in the inspirational list alongside nine other women, including Grenfell Tower firefighter Louisa De Silvo, peacemaker Zakia Bassou, justice seeker Margaret Aspinall, activist Akeela Ahmed, period-poverty champion Amika George, and campaigner Anna Veglio-White.

Anna Fielding, Stylist’s associate features editor, said:

“We chose people who we thought had shown extraordinary courage and determination. These are not everyday people – they’re incredible. But I hope it will show our readers that they can be incredible too. We all have so much potential.”

Stylist’s editor-in-chief Lisa Smosarski added:

“It is hard to reflect on 2017 without focussing on some of the toughest challenges we’ve faced in the UK, and it would be easy to get lost in this sadness and fear.

“But for me, the most amazing thing about these stories, were those of hope. It’s reassuring to know that our world isn’t broken because the majority of people are good, kind, selfless and generous – especially when put to the ultimate test.

“So in true Stylist fashion we wanted to celebrate those women who had made their mark on our year with acts of true courage and bravery, and who offer hope that we can still come together and create a world we can be proud of.”

You can read Saffiyah Khan’s interview here; and check out the full list of Stylist’s Women of the Year, complete with photographs and interviews, right here.


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