Celebrating nine women campaigners for peace – Shirin Ebadi

To celebrate International Peace Day 2014, we are celebrating nine women campaigners for peace from around the world. These women have been recognised by Noble Peace Prizes, National awards and appointments to peace negotiating teams. There are also countless women who have pushed for peace in conflicts around the world whose efforts have not been recognised. We salute their instrumental, ongoing work for change.


Today we are profiling Shirin Ebadi from Iran.

Shirin Ebadi is known for her pioneering efforts to promote democracy and human rights for women and children in Iran. As the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize (2003), she has used her experience as a lawyer, judge, lecturer, writer and activist to speak out against human rights abuses in Iran. Shirin said that “Any person who pursues human rights in Iran must live with fear from birth to death, but I have learned to overcome my fear”.

After becoming a judge in 1970, Ebadi became the president of the Tehran city court, the first woman in Iranian history to hold that position. Forced to resign her position after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Ebadi went on to establish her own legal practice in 1992, taking on sensitive cases Iranian lawyers who did not want to touch human rights, freedom of expression, interpretation of Islam and women’s rights. Ebadi also wrote books calling for greater legal protection of Iranian children, however her exposure of the criminal activity of prominent conservative leaders resulted in a suspended jail sentence and a professional ban.

Ebadi’s memoir, Iran Awakening was well received internationally upon its publication in 2006. She wrote:

“In the last 23 years, from the day I was stripped of my judgeship to the years of doing battle in the revolutionary courts of Tehran, I had repeated one refrain: an interpretation of Islam that is in harmony with equality and democracy is an authentic expression of faith … It is not religion that binds women, but the selective dictates of those who wish them cloistered. That belief, along with the conviction that change in Iran must come peacefully and from within, has underpinned my work.”

Ebadi’s Nobel Peace Prize was the first Nobel Prize to be confiscated by national authorities in November 2009 when the Tehran’s Revolutionary Court froze her bank account and demanded $410,000 in taxes it said it was owed on the $1.3 million prize money. Ebadi has continued to defend prominent political prisoners, journalists, students and women in Iran, and repeated calls for reform.

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