Shirin Ebadi – Iran, 2003
Shirin Ebadi, J.D., was awarded the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to promote human rights, in particular, the rights of women, children, and political prisoners in Iran. She is the first Muslim woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and only the fifth Muslim to receive a Nobel Prize in any field.
Dr. Ebadi was one of the first female judges in Iran. She served as president of the city court of Tehran from 1975 to 1979 and was the first Iranian woman to achieve Chief Justice status. She, along with other women judges, was dismissed from that position after the Islamic Revolution in February 1979. She was made a clerk in the court she had once presided over, until she petitioned for early retirement. After obtaining her lawyer's license in 1992, Dr. Ebadi set up private practice. As a lawyer, Dr. Ebadi has taken on many controversial cases defending political dissidents and as a result has been arrested numerous times.
In addition to being an internationally-recognized advocate of human rights, she has also established many non-governmental organizations in Iran, including the Million Signatures Campaign, a campaign demanding an end to legal discrimination against women in Iranian law.
Dr. Ebadi is also a university professor and often students from outside Iran take part in her human rights training courses. She has published over 70 articles and 13 books dedicated to various aspects of human rights, some of which have been published by UNICEF. In 2004, she was named by Forbes Magazine as one of the 100 most powerful women in the world.
In January 2006, along with sister Laureate Jody Williams, Dr. Ebadi took the lead in establishing the Nobel Women's Initiative.
Video: Shirin speaks about what motivates her tireless work for human rights.
It’s not just about hope and ideas. It’s about action.Shirin Ebadi
Democracy doesn’t recognize east or west; democracy is simply people’s will. Therefore, I do not acknowledge that there are various models of democracy; there is just democracy itself.
How can you defy fear? Fear is a human instinct, just like hunger. Whether you like it or not, you become hungry. Similarly with fear. But I have learned to train myself to live with this fear. Human rights is a universal standard. It is a component of every religion and every civilization.
Nothing useful and lasting can emerge from violence.
My aim is to show that those governments that violate the rights of people by invoking the name of Islam have been misusing Islam.
Terrorism is based on two major pillars: One is injustice, and the other is a certainty of attitude, the notion that their version of the story is the correct one. This way of thinking – this self-certainty – is based on not being educated.
The idea of cultural relativism is nothing but an excuse to violate human rights.
We must not enable anyone to impose his personal view regarding religion on others by force, oppression, or pressure.
What is important is that one utilizes one’s intellect and not to be 100 percent sure about one’s convictions. One should always leave room for doubt.
Whenever women protest and ask for their rights, they are silenced with the argument that the laws are justified under Islam. It is an unfounded argument. It is not Islam at fault, but rather the patriarchal culture that uses its own interpretations to justify whatever it wants.