Shirin Ebadi, Iranian lawyer and human rights activist, won the Nobel Peace prize for her courageous defense of human rights. One of Iran's first women judges, she was forced to resign after the Muslim clerical regime took power in 1979. She continued to work as a lawyer and human rights activist, particularly for the rights of children.
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.
Ebadi told the Nobel Peace Prize Committee that the award was a victory for women in Iran and other Muslim countries. She said: “The discriminatory plight of women in Islamic states, whether in the sphere of civil law or in the realm of social, political, and cultural justice, has its roots in the patriarchal and male-dominated culture prevailing in these societies, not in Islam.”
Ebadi also criticized Western democracies, including Israel and the United States. She criticized U.S. action against the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq and detention of captured al-Qaida terrorists by the U.S. at Guantanamo, Cuba. Ebadi seems to forget the al-Qaida terrorist attacks and threats posed by Iraq that forced the U.S. and its coalition allies to take action. But unlike Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida, the U.S. strongly defends her right to speak out.
President George W. Bush pointed out that Shirin Ebadi has become for many, the embodiment of Iran's democracy movement:
“In Iran, the demand for democracy is strong and broad, as we saw. . .when thousands gathered to welcome home Shirin Ebadi, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. The regime in Tehran must heed the democratic demands of the Iranian people, or lose its last claim to legitimacy.”
As former Iranian political prisoner Mehrangiz Kar wrote, “People such as Shirin Ebadi can be condemned to death in secret courts resembling Europe's Inquisition. . . . I hope the Iranian people will take courage from this prize and organize and build a powerful movement in Iran for human rights.”