Shirin Ebadi is the the first Muslim
woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in the award's 102-year history.
Ebadi, who presently lives in exile in France, was praised around the
world as a courageous champion of political freedom after the Norwegian
Nobel Committee awarded her the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize.
"There is no difference between
Islam and human rights," said Ebadi. "For anyone who pursues
human rights in Iran, fear is a constant threat from birth to death. I
have managed to overcome that fear."
Ebadi, who also is know for her writings, was one of Iran's first female
judges, serving as president of the city court of Tehran during
1975-1979, which were the doomed years of the Western-backed Iranian
monarchy, overthrown by the Islamic Revolution of 1979, when she was
forced to resign. Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 she has been an
activist for democracy and the rights of refugees, women and children.
As an attorney, she represented families of writers and intellectuals
killed in 1999 and 2000, and worked to expose conspirators behind an
attack by pro-clergy assailants on students at Tehran University in
1999. Ebadi, who was jailed for three weeks in 2000, has been a forceful
advocate for women, children and those on the margins of society. She
turned her law office into a base for rights crusades and assaults on
the establishment on issues such a persecution of dissidents and
now-rare punishments such as stoning and flogging for social offenses.
She has taken cases dealing with domestic abuse and the rights of street
children. Her writings have touched on rights for refugees, women and
At her news conference in Paris after being awarded the 2003 Nobel Peace
Prize for her work promoting peaceful and democratic solutions in the
struggle for human rights, Shirin Ebadi said Iran's most pressing human
rights crisis is the lack of free speech, and she urged the government
to immediately release prisoners jailed for expressing their opinions.
Although Iranian women serve in parliament and have far fewer limits
than in other Middle Eastern nations such as Saudi Arabia, laws still
impose some boundaries. An Iranian woman needs her husband's permission
to work or travel abroad, and a man's court testimony is considered
twice as important as that of a woman. Presently jobs such as judges and
posts with the ruling inner circle are allowed for men only. The
powerful Guardian Council, which supports political candidates and
interprets laws, today bars women from becoming president. But that
interpretation could be challenged by Ebadi's supporters if momentum
builds for her candidacy to succeed President Mohammad Khatami in 2005.
Ebadi has argued for a new interpretation of Islamic law that embraces
democracy and equality before the law. "The time of revolutions is
finished," Ebadi was quoted in Le Monde. "The Islamic republic
cannot continue if it does not evolve. Not only within the government,
but in the whole country, we want reforms to be pursued in a serious and
radical manner." Those reforms, she said, include ending the use of
harsh Islamic punishments such as amputations and stonings and allowing
free elections of legislators.
Last year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, former President Jimmy Carter,
called Ebadi's work "an inspiration to people in Iran and around
[compiled from Yahoo!News,
BBC News, Reuters, AP, AFP]
Suggested biographies - Nobel
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