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10/16/03 - IRANIAN WOMAN WINS NOBEL PRIZE - 2003-10-17

Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi has won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize. She was selected by a committee appointed by the Norwegian parliament. Committee chairman Ole Danbolt Mjoes said Ms. Ebadi was awarded the prize for promoting human rights in Iran, especially for women and children:

“We hope that the people of Iran will feel joyous that, for the first time in history, one of their citizens has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. And we hope the prize will be an inspiration for all those who struggle for human rights and democracy in her country, in the Muslim world, and in all countries.”

Ms. Ebadi, fifty-six, earned a law degree from the University of Tehran, where she teaches today. In 1974, she became one of Iran’s first female judges. But she was forced out when extremist Muslim clerics took power in 1979. Iran’s clerical rulers said a woman should not preside over a court of law. Since then, Ms. Ebadi has been fighting for women’s rights in Iran. As she has said, “We will only have the rule of law in Iran on the day that women are treated the same as men under the law.”

As a lawyer, Shirin Ebadi has represented many people arrested for speaking out for more freedom in Iran. In 2000, she was arrested herself. She was jailed for about three weeks, and a closed court sentenced her to fifteen months in prison. But the sentence was eventually suspended.

At a news conference after the Nobel award was announced, Ms. Ebadi called on Iran’s government to respect human rights and release all political prisoners. Ms. Ebadi stressed that she has always maintained that it is “possible to be a Muslim and at the same time to have. . .human rights.”

White House spokesman Scott McClellan says the Nobel award to Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi is “well deserved”:

“She has worked tirelessly, and suffered at the hands of the clerical regime, including imprisonment, for promoting democracy and human rights in her country.”

As President George W. Bush said, “Americans look forward to the day when a free Iran stands as an example of tolerance, prosperity, and democracy in the Middle East and around the world.”