Shirin Ebadi: 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Winner
Norway says Iran confiscated Nobel Peace Prize from Iranian activist
November 26, 2009 - Norway
(CNN) -- Iranian authorities confiscated the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize given to human rights activist Shirin Ebadi, Norway said Thursday.
"The medal and the diploma have been removed from Dr. Ebadi's bank box, together with other personal items. Such an act leaves us feeling shock and disbelief," Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store said in a written statement.
Norway did not explain how it had learned of the alleged confiscation, and there was no immediate reaction from Iran.
Norway's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a written statement that it "has reacted strongly" and summoned the Iranian charge d'affaires on Wednesday afternoon to protest the move.
During the meeting with the Iranian charge d'affaires, State Secretary Gry Larsen also expressed "grave concern" about how Ebadi's husband has allegedly been treated.
"Earlier this autumn, he [Ebadi's husband] was arrested in Tehran and severely beaten. His pension has been stopped and his bank account has been frozen," the statement from Norway said.
Store said in the statement that it marked the "first time a Nobel Peace Prize has been confiscated by national authorities."
The peace prize is one of five awarded annually since 1901 by the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden. The other four prizes are for physiology or medicine, physics, chemistry and literature. Starting in 1969, the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel also has been awarded.
While the other prizes are awarded by committees based in Sweden, the peace prize is determined by a five-member panel appointed by the Norwegian parliament.
Ebadi received the prize for her focus on human rights, especially on the struggle to improve the status of women and children.
A statement from the Nobel committee at the time said, "As a lawyer, judge, lecturer, writer and activist, she has spoken out clearly and strongly in her country, Iran, and far beyond its borders."
By SHIRIN EBADI and HADI GHAEMI
Published: February 8, 2005
DURING her tour of Europe, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has given assurances that a military attack by the United States on Iran "is simply not on the agenda at this point." But notwithstanding Ms. Rice's disavowal, recent statements by the Bush administration, starting with President Bush's State of the Union address and Vice President Dick Cheney's comments about a possible Israeli military attack on Iran, are reminiscent of the rhetoric in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. And Ms. Rice herself made clear that "the Iranian regime's human rights behavior and its behavior toward its own population is something to be loathed."
American policy toward the Middle East, and Iran in particular, is often couched in the language of promoting human rights. No one would deny the importance of that goal. But for human rights defenders in Iran, the possibility of a foreign military attack on their country represents an utter disaster for their cause.
The situation for human rights in Iran is far from ideal. Security forces harass, imprison and even torture human rights defenders and civil society activists. The authorities attack journalists and writers for expressing their opinions and regularly shut down newspapers. Political prisoners languish in jails. Superfluous judicial summonses are routinely used to intimidate critics, and arbitrary detentions are common.
But Iranian society has refused to be coerced into silence. The human rights discourse is alive and well at the grassroots level; civil society activists consider it to be the most potent framework for achieving sustainable democratic reforms and political pluralism.
Indeed, American readers might be surprised to know how vigorous Iran's human rights organizations are. Last fall, when security forces unlawfully detained more than 20 young journalists and bloggers because of what they had written, independent Iranian organizations like the Center for Defense of Human Rights, the Association of Journalists for Freedom of Press, and the Students Association for Human Rights campaigned for their release.
This outcry, in tandem with support from the international community and human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch, led to the release of detainees. In fact, so great was the criticism of the abuses committed during these detentions that some of Iran's most senior government officials came out in favor of releasing the detainees.
Independent organizations are essential for fostering the culture of human rights in Iran. But the threat of foreign military intervention will provide a powerful excuse for authoritarian elements to uproot these groups and put an end to their growth.
Human rights violators will use this opportunity to silence their critics by labeling them as the enemy's fifth column. In 1980, after Saddam Hussein invaded Iran and inflamed nationalist passions, Iranian authorities used such arguments to suppress dissidents.
American hypocrisy doesn't help, either. Given the longstanding willingness of the American government to overlook abuses of human rights, particularly women's rights, by close allies in the Middle East like Saudi Arabia, it is hard not to see the Bush administration's focus on human rights violations in Iran as a cloak for its larger strategic interests.
Respect for human rights in any country must spring forth through the will of the people and as part of a genuine democratic process. Such respect can never be imposed by foreign military might and coercion - an approach that abounds in contradictions. Not only would a foreign invasion of Iran vitiate popular support for human rights activism, but by destroying civilian lives, institutions and infrastructure, war would also usher in chaos and instability. Respect for human rights is likely to be among the first casualties.
Instead, the most effective way to promote human rights in Iran is to provide moral support and international recognition to independent human rights defenders and to insist that Iran adhere to the international human rights laws and conventions that it has signed. Getting the Iranian government to abide by these international standards is the human rights movement's highest goal; foreign military intervention in Iran is the surest way to harm us and keep that goal out of reach.
Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is the founder of theCenter for Defense of Human Rights in Tehran, Iran. Hadi Ghaemi is a researcher for Human Rights Watch.
Iranian human rights activist wins 2003 Nobel Peace Prize
Iranian writer Shirin Ebadi, a female human
rights and democracy activist, will be awarded the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for her focus on human rights,
in particular on the struggle for rights of women and children.
This year's prize of $1.3 million, will be presented to her on December 10.
"As a lawyer, judge, lecturer, writer and activist, she has
spoken out clearly and strongly in her country, Iran, far
beyond its borders," the Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee said on Friday.
The citation added she has stood up as a "sound professional, a courageous person, and has never heeded the
threat to her own safety."
The 56-year-old was one of the first judges in the Islamic Republic and received her law degree from
the University of Tehran.
Nobel Peace Concert to Honor Shirin Ebadi - Sunday December 21
Academy Award winners Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones will host the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway,
in honor of 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi. Grammy Award winner Tim McGraw will headline the show,
which will also feature acknowledgements from former US President and 2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter and other notable figures, to be announced.
Shirin Ebadi is the first Muslim woman and the 11th woman overall to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize since its inception in 1901. The Norwegian Nobel Committee honored Ebadi for her work on behalf of democracy and human rights, which have specifically concentrated on the rights of women and children. The 56-year-old Ebadi received her law degree from the University of Tehran. For four years, she served as president of the city court of Tehran. One of Iran.s first female judges, Ebadi was forced to step down after the Islamic Revolution. She is the founder and leader of the Association for Support of Children.s Rights in Iran. She is also the author of a number of books on human rights. She is currently practicing law and teaching at the University of Tehran.
Check CNN Poll on Nobel Peace Prize choice -- Over 82% of voters agree with the choice as of December 17, 2003.
Nobel Peace Prize citation: Full text
Friday, October 10, 2003 Posted 6:26 AM EDT (1026 GMT)
OSLO, Norway -- Following is a text of the citation
for the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday:
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2003 to Shirin Ebadi
for her efforts for democracy and human rights. She has focused especially on the struggle for the
rights of women and children.
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.
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 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 Muslim world, and in all
countries where the fight for human rights needs inspiration and support.
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Moments after learning Friday that Shirin
Ebadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the mother of the Iranian
human rights lawyer prayed to Allah. Ebadi's husband, too, gave
thanks for what may lie ahead.
"The reform movement is reborn," said Javad Tavassolian, the
husband of Ebadi, the first Iranian and first Muslim woman to win
the peace prize.
Ebadi -- who also is Iran's first female judge -- was hailed
around the world as a courageous champion of political freedom
after the Norwegian Nobel Committee honored her for promoting
peaceful and democratic solutions in the struggle for human rights.
The prize, announced Friday in Oslo, Norway, also gave hope to
the dispirited reformers challenging Iran's ruling clerics that the
56-year-old lawyer's newfound clout and international stature may
breathe life into their tired ranks.
"This prize doesn't belong to me only. It belongs to all people
who work for human rights and democracy in Iran," Ebadi said in
Paris, where she was attending a conference.
Ebadi, who was jailed for three weeks in 2000, has been a
forceful advocate for women, children and those on the margins of
"As a lawyer, judge, lecturer, writer and activist, she has
spoken out clearly and strongly in her country, Iran, far beyond
its borders," the Nobel committee said in its citation.
Reformers in Iran may now expect even more: a firebrand willing
to directly battle the powerful theocracy in the model of other
history-shaping Nobel laureates such as Nelson Mandela and Lech
"She is an international figure now," said Isa Saharqis, a
prominent reformer and editor of the monthly political journal,
Aftab, or Sun. "The conservatives cannot close their eyes to
Iranian state media waited hours to report the Nobel committee's
decision -- and then only as the last item on the radio news update.
It was not until late Friday that Iran issued an official
statement, with government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh
congratulating Ebadi for her prize.
"We hope more attention will be paid to the opinions of Mrs.
Ebadi both inside and outside Iran more than before," he said.
"In the name of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran,
I congratulate Mrs. Ebadi and all Iranian Muslim women,"
Ramezanzadeh told The Associated Press.
"We are happy that a Muslim Iranian woman has behaved, using
the capabilities of the country in the fields of defending human
rights, especially the rights of children and women, in a way that
is appreciated by the peace-loving bodies around the world."
Ramezanzadeh said the government is expected to send a top
official to attend Ebadi's welcoming ceremony in Tehran on Tuesday.
At Ebadi's home, her family watched updates on international
broadcasts via a satellite dish -- technically illegal but recently
tolerated as conservatives try to soften opposition.
Ebadi's 79-year-old mother, Minu Yamini, said the Nobel
announcement was just the third time she cried for her daughter.
The first was her university graduation; the second was when she
Ebadi, who is often sharply criticized by Iran's hard-liners and
conservative clerics, was convicted in a closed trial three years
ago of slandering government officials. She was given a suspended
sentence following her three weeks in jail.
At her news conference in Paris, Ebadi said Iran's most pressing
human rights crisis is the lack of free speech, and she urged the
government to immediately release prisoners jailed for expressing
"There is no difference between Islam and human rights," said
Ebadi, who was not wearing the Islamic head covering required for
women in Iran.
"Therefore, the religious ones should also welcome this
award," she added. "The prize means you can be a Muslim and at
the same time have human rights."
Iran's reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, has often said the
same in his vision of "Islamic democracy." But Khatami has been
discredited in the eyes of many mainstream reformers for his
unwillingness to press for rapid change. More radical activists are
also disheartened by the failure of street protests, including a
violent but short-lived confrontation with authorities in June.
Now, reformers appear ready to look for direction and unity from
Ebadi, who is scheduled to return to Iran on Tuesday. One of the
first tests could be February parliamentary elections, which many
reformers have suggested they would shun as a show of frustration.
"Today is a happy day in Iranian history," said Saeed
Pourazizi, a close ally of Khatami. "I don't hide my deep feelings
The National Council of Resistance of Iran, a Paris-based group
opposing the clerical establishment, called the Nobel award "an
act against the religious fascism ruling Iran."
Although Iranian women serve in parliament and have far fewer
limits than in other Middle Eastern nations such as Saudi Arabia,
laws still impose some definite boundaries. An Iranian woman needs
her husband's permission to work or travel abroad, and a man's
court testimony is considered twice as important as that of a
"The prize is an outcome of her relentless fight against
inequality," said Azam Taleqani, leader of a women's rights group.
Ebadi served as Iran's first female judge in the waning years of
the Western-backed monarchy, which was toppled by the Islamic
Revolution of 1979, when she was forced to resign.
She turned her law office into a base for rights crusades and
assaults on the establishment on issues such a persecution of
dissidents and now-rare punishments such as stoning and flogging
for social offenses.
She has taken cases dealing with domestic abuse and the rights
of street children. Her writings have touched on rights for
refugees, women and child laborers.
In 2001, Ebadi wrote in an Iranian magazine about her experience
in jail -- the loneliness of her confinement and the agony of
recurring back pain and other ailments.
"I hate myself for being so weak," she wrote in the Payam
Emrooz Monthly Review. "I try not to complain. I would just press
my teeth against each other and would flex my fingers hard -- my
nails have turned blue because of the intensity of the pressure --
but never would I groan."
Last year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, former President Jimmy
Carter, called Ebadi's work "an inspiration to people in Iran and
around the world."
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the award underscores
"the importance of expanding human rights throughout the world."
White House spokesman Scott McClellan called her "a lifetime
champion of the cause of human dignity and democracy."
This year's prize is worth $1.3 million. Speculation on winners
this year had centered on former Czech President Vaclav Havel and
Pope John Paul II.
Ebadi is the third Muslim to win. Yasser Arafat took the prize
in 1994, sharing it with then-Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres
and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. In 1978, Egyptian President Anwar
Sadat shared the award with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin
for jointly negotiating peace between the two countries. Rabin and
Sadat were assassinated after winning their prizes.
The Nobel Peace Prize will be presented in Oslo on Dec. 10, the
anniversary of Nobel's death. The other prizes will be given that
day in the Swedish capital, Stockholm.
U.N. lauds Nobel prize for Iranian woman
UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 10 (UPI) --
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan Friday warmly welcomed awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Iranian Shirin Ebadi.
In a statement issued through his spokesman, Annan himself a Nobel laureate as co-winner of the 2001 Peace Prize with the United Nations, pointed out Ebadi is the first Muslim woman to receive the prize, calling her "a courageous champion of human rights."
The spokesman said the secretary-general sent his congratulations to Ebadi, noting that she previously served as Iran's first woman judge and is recognized particularly for her tireless work to promote the human rights of women, children and refugees.
"Equally, she is known for her conviction that human rights are fully compatible with Islam, and her interpretation of Islamic law in a way that recognizes the harmony between human rights, democracy and equality before the law," the statement said.
"Her work is a fine example of the very principles the United Nations stands for, and this award should serve as an inspiration to women and men, Muslims and non-Muslims, as well as human rights defenders around the world."
October 17, 2003 - MotherJones.com
Iran's Prize Fight
When Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian lawyer and champion of women's rights, was announced winner of this year's
Nobel Peace prize, reaction around the world, apart from a few commentators who thought the ailing pope
should have won it, was overwhelmingly positive. Not so in Ebadi's native Iran, where she's suddenly at
the center of the country's ceaseless struggle between conservatives and reformists.
While Ebadi has won support from those pushing for civil reforms in Iran, her place in the spotlight has
enraged the powerful conservatives who see her as a threat. And they have a point. One of Ebadi's first
post-prize acts was to call for radical reforms in theocratic Iran including an end to
for crimes, including stoning and amputation of limbs.
Iranian state-run TV downplayed Ebadi's award and insinuated that she was given the "western" award because
she is a convict who supported homosexuality, abortions, and pre-marital sexual relations. Hamid Reza Taraqi,
a member of the conservative Islamic Coalition Society, told the press that Ebadi's award was
interfering with Iranian politics.
"The prize is a support for secular movements and against the ideals of the 1979 Islamic revolution...The
Norwegian Nobel Committee, against its original objectives of promoting peace, has turned into a political
tool in the hand of foreigners to interfere in the internal affairs of our country."
While the hardliners dismissed Ebadi's achievements, Iran's somewhat reformist president, Mohammad Khatami,
was a bit warmer, albeit waiting till four days after the prize was announced. "Obviously I am pleased that
a compatriot has achieved such success," he told the press, though he also
warned his compatriot to "pay attention" upon her return home. Khatami basically agreed that the award was
political. "This award has been given to her totally on the basis of political considerations," he said. While
many suspect that Khatami's reformist message would generally support Ebadi, his delicate relationship with
conservative forces in Iran
means he can't get too excited. Jahanshah Javid, writes in the Iranian that Khatami's position is
"[Khatami's] comments are understandable. After all, Khatami cannot be expected to embrace Ebadi and all she
stands for. The ruling conservatives are fuming from the fact that the world's most prestigious award has been
given to a lawyer -- and a woman, astaghforellah -- who has been defending victims of some of the worst crimes
committed by the regime. Khatami's outright support for Ebadi would have added fuel to the fire.
But for Ebadi the forces lining up against her are nothing new; in fact, she's been battling them for most of
her 56 years, and her newfound clout gives her an edge. As Beirut's Daily Star notes, support for Iran's
reformists could not have come "at
a more opportune time." Amir Teheri writes in the New York Post on Thursday, Ebadi's very existence
threatens the conservative
vision of Iran's hardliners. He writes:
But although Khatami may have saved himself from the wrath of his conservative foes, his double-talk could still
cost him dearly. He may now have lost the support of those who still had some hope left in his ability to bring
about change. Worse still, by discrediting the just recognition of the great work of a spotless human rights
activist, he has badly damaged his credibility. There were those who thought despite his political impotence,
at least he was a 'nice guy'. No more."
"The significance of a woman serving as a judge may be hard to grasp for non-Muslims. But the advent of woman
judges in Iran under the Shah was a truly revolutionary event, unprecedented in the 1,500 year history of Islam.
For Teheri, a Iranian journalist working in New York, and clearly no friend to the hardliners, Ebadi's Nobel
hints that the conservative forces in Iran will collapse. Ebadi certainly has her fans.
Five thousand cheering supporters welcomed her home at Tehran's airport, including one Iranian writer who
threw flowers at Ebadi's feet as she
walked down the tarmac.
Women, whose testimony is regarded as only half as valid as a man's in the Islamic shariah, were not allowed
even to act as ordinary lawyers, let alone to judge their 'superiors,' men.
For the Islamist fascist, a woman must not leave home without a chaperon nor travel without the written permission
of her husband, brother, father or another male relative. A man could take up to four permanent wives and as
many temporary ones as he likes, and can repudiate any at any time without informing her.
In that context, Ebadi's generation -- which gave Iran its first women members of parliament, Cabinet ministers,
provincial governors, ambassadors, army and police commanders, aircraft pilots, high-skill surgeons, bus and
taxi drivers, etc. -- was a truly heroic one in the history of Islam.
The mullahs tried to kill that generation and push women back to the margins of society."
But whether Ebadi is a hero or foe to those in Iran, the Times of India notes that the political uproar
is to be expected. Ebadi, a Muslim feminist, was chosen to send Iran, and others, the message that
human rights and Islam are perfectly compatible.
"There are two long-term implications of the Ebadi award. First is the manner that this will impact developments
within Iran and the initial response of Ms Ebadi is instructive.
While Ebadi's work clearly merits such a prestigious and generous award, 1.3 million dollars, her future
work holds a lot of promise. With analysts predicting that her fame will deter authorities from further
imprisoning her. Thus, Ebadi is in position to inspire women across Iran, and perhaps the wider region.
But while Ebadi is surely a hero, the Economist doubts she'll be able to become a
national role model.
Appearing in Paris sans scarf, she was measured in her responses and reiterated that there is no difference
between Islam and human rights. She added that religious people (in Iran) should also welcome this award for
it means that you can be a Muslim and at the same time adhere to human rights. This is an assertion that is
laden with socio-political import for autocratic and authoritarian regimes in many Islamic states.
But at the same time, Ms Ebadi sent a clear message to Washington that she was opposed to any kind of
interference or imposition from the outside. She observed that the fight for human rights is conducted in
Iran by the Iranian people. This caution is significant for it draws attention to the negative manner in
which Islamic states and societies are currently perceived. "
"Iranian women, even many who are indifferent to her causes, are intensely proud of Ms Ebadi's achievement.
But do not expect her to become a role model. Despite a dash of radicalism -- she goes bare-headed outside
Iran -- she remains wedded to the cautious reformism that is espoused by Mr Khatami and his supporters.
And that, many believe, has failed. A small but growing number of women are coming to reject the legal
superstructure to which Ms Ebadi is committed.
Take the increasing interest being shown in the poetry of Forogh Farokhzad. In the 1960s, Ms Farokhzad was
a beautiful hell-raiser who had an affair with Iran's hippest film director. Shortly before her legend-sealing
death in a car crash in 1966, she observed that social change had endowed concepts like religion, morals and
love with new meanings. Forty years on, expressing such revisionism can get you jailed, but the judges are
powerless to stop lots of young women from agreeing."
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