Nobel Peace Prize to Iranian Lawyer Shirin Ebadi

Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi becomes the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The jury emphasised Ebadi's fearless defence of human rights, especially those of women and children.

"Islam is not incompatible with human rights!", Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi told a news conference in Paris. "Islam is not incompatible with human rights and all Muslims should be glad of this prize. If you read the Koran, you will see there is nothing in it that is against human rights," Ebadi stated. The news of the Nobel peace prize reached the 56-year-old lawyer and human rights activist while she was in Paris. Ebadi is the first ever Muslim woman to get the honour since its inception in 1901.

Shirin Ebadi may be a small and softly spoken woman, but the lawyer has shown nerves of steel in a human rights campaign that has earned her the wrath of the Islamic republic's powerful hardliners. At 56, Ebadi has emerged as one of Iran's most prominent pro-reform activists, spearheading a drive to provide greater legal rights to women and children. She has also defended dissidents that few other lawyers would dare to touch.

First female judge in Iran

Prior to the 1979 Islamic revolution, she made headlines when she became the country's first female judge. But she was stripped of her post when the new ruling clerics decided that women were by nature unsuitable for such responsibilities. But rather than retire to a life of obscurity or flee overseas like many others who had held high-profile functions under the regime of the ousted Shah, Ebadi continued to lecture in law at Tehran university and went back to working as a lawyer.

"A committed champion for human rights"

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder congratulated Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi on being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, hailing her work on behalf of women and children. "Strengthening the rights of women and children is a particular concern of yours," Schroeder said in a personal telegram to Ebadi. "Your commitment to tolerant coexistence and understanding between cultures and ways of life is an important contribution to a peaceful development of our world. I wish you energy and success in your further efforts." Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said in his own telegram that Ebadi was a "committed champion for human rights (...) You have not only worked hard for the rights of children and women but also fearlessly for freedom of expression and tolerance in your country," he said. President Johannes Rau sent his congratulations to Ebadi as well for her "tireless work for human rights" as well as her "courage and perseverance".

Call for release of political prisoners and against foreign intervention

Shirin Ebadi wasted no time Friday in pursuing her bold fight for human rights, calling for the release of political prisoners in her homeland but warning the United States not to intervene. Just hours after becoming the first Muslim woman to win the prestigious accolade, Ebadi also spoke out against rights abuses around the world, taking aim at the US occupation of Iraq and describing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an unequal war of "stones against weapons."

Ebadi is has also stated that she opposes "any foreign intervention in Iranian affairs (...) People of the country have to fight for human rights in our own country." She added that she would be in Oslo in December to receive the US$1.3 million prize.

To get to the Nobel Committee press release, click here.
For the biography of Shirin Ebadi on the Nobel website, click here.

© 2003 Deutsche Welle

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