Bahai News -- The Times of India - Shirin Ebadi wins Nobel for peace

Shirin Ebadi wins Nobel for peace

C R JAYACHANDRAN/TIMESOFINDIA.COM

TIMES NEWS NETWORK

NEW DELHI: Iran's first woman judge and a leading figure in the struggle for women's and children's rights in the country, Shirin Ebadi has won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2003.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award this Nobel Peace Prize to Ebadi for her efforts for democracy and human rights. She has focused especially on the struggle for the rights of women and children.

Ebadi won from a record field of 165 candidates including Pope John Paul and former Czech President Vaclav Havel.

This year's prize is worth $1.3 million.

"As a lawyer, judge, lecturer, writer and activist, she has spoken out clearly and strongly in her country, Iran, and far beyond its borders. She has stood up as a sound professional, a courageous person, and has never heeded the threats to her own safety," the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in its citation.

Her principal arena is the struggle for basic human rights, and no society deserves to be labelled civilized unless the rights of women and children are respected. In an era of violence, she has consistently supported non-violence. It is fundamental to her view that the supreme political power in a community must be built on democratic elections. She favours enlightenment and dialogue as the best path to changing attitudes and resolving conflict.

"Ebadi is a conscious Muslim. She sees no conflict between Islam and fundamental human rights. It is important to her that the dialogue between the different cultures and religions of the world should take as its point of departure their shared values," it said.

It is a pleasure for the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the Peace Prize to a woman who is part of the Muslim world, and of whom that world can be proud - along with all who fight for human rights wherever they live.

During recent decades, democracy and human rights have advanced in various parts of the world. By its awards of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has attempted to speed up this process.

"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 Moslem world, and in all countries where the fight for human rights needs inspiration and support," the Nobel committee said.

The prizes are presented to the winners on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death in 1896 in the Swedish capital, Stockholm. The peace prize is presented in Oslo.

The Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi was born in 1947. She received a law degree from the University of Tehran. In the years 1975-79 she served as president of the city court of Tehran, one the first female judges in Iran. After the revolution in 1979 she was forced to resign. She now works as a lawyer and also teaches at the University of Tehran.

Both in her research and as an activist, she is known for promoting peaceful, democratic solutions to serious problems in society. She takes an active part in the public debate and is well-known and admired by the general public in her country for her defence in court of victims of the conservative faction's attack on freedom of speech and political freedom.

Ebadi represents Reformed Islam, and argues for a new interpretation of Islamic law which is in harmony with vital human rights such as democracy, equality before the law, religious freedom and freedom of speech. As for religious freedom, it should be noted that Ebadi also includes the rights of members of the bahai community, which has had problems in Iran ever since its foundation.

Ebadi is an activist for refugee rights, as well as those of women and children. She is the founder and leader of the Association for Support of Children's Rights in Iran. Ebadi has written a number of academic books and articles focused on human rights. Among her books translated into English are The Rights of the Child. A Study of Legal Aspects of Children's Rights in Iran (Tehran, 1994), published with support from UNICEF, and History and Documentation of Human Rights in Iran (New York, 2000).

In 1997 Ebadi had told Norwegian news agency NTB that Iran's existing system had to change.

"After the revolution many things went wrong. For example, we received a series of discriminatory laws. Now an increasing number of people want changes, and this is seen in the election of Mohammad Khatami as president. The time has come for reforms," Ebadi had said

As a lawyer, she has been involved in a number of controversial political cases. She was the attorney of the families of the writers and intellectuals who were victims of the serial murders in 1999-2000. She has worked actively - and successfully - to reveal the principals behind the attack on the students at Tehran University in 1999 where several students died. As a consequence, Ebadi has been imprisoned on numerous occasions.

With Islam as her starting point, Ebadi campaigns for peaceful solutions to social problems, and promotes new thinking on Islamic terms. She has displayed great personal courage as a lawyer defending individuals and groups who have fallen victim to a powerful political and legal system that is legitimized through an inhumane interpretation of Islam.

In 2001 Ebadi won the Rafto Prize for her long battle for human rights and democracy in Iran. She has also been recognised by Human Rights Watch for her efforts.

©Copyright 2003, The Times of India (India)

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