Shirin Ebadi

2003 Nobel Peace Prize-winner for her efforts towards democracy, peace and women’s rights in the Middle East.

Shirin Ebadi was born in 1947 in Hamadan, Iran. When she was young, her family moved to the capital, Tehran. Growing up, Shirin and her brothers were treated as equals by their parents. It was not until she was older that she realised that most Iranian girls were treated as inferior and were expected to be quiet and obedient. 

She did well at school and went on to study law. In March 1969, when Shirin was only 22 years old, she became the first ever female judge in Iran. She continued her education and received a doctorate in law from Tehran University in 1971.

In the 1970s, Iran was in a state of unrest. Iran was a monarchy, and its ruler, the Shah, was an unpopular dictator. In 1979 the Shah was overthrown. Instead of democracy, as many hoped for, a religious government came to power in Iran. The new government was headed by Muslim clerics, led by the Ayatollah. They believed that women and minorities did not have equal rights.

One of the first policies they enforced was to take away rights for women. It was no longer legal for women to serve as judges. All female judges were dismissed from their posts and given clerical jobs. Dr. Ebadi, outraged by the situation, requested early retirement. For several years she stayed at home taking care of her two daughters, writing books, and working to get her job back.

In 1992, she acquired her lawyer's licence and established her own practice. She prioritised cases that involved the unfair treatment of women and children. Ebadi became one of the best-known lawyers in Iran and defended the families of serial murder victims and child abuse victims.

Dr Ebadi has lived in exile in the United Kingdom since June 2009 because of death threats from the Iranian government. She continues to work for human rights around the world. She joined her sister Nobel Peace Laureates to form the Nobel Womens Initiative, to bring attention to women and childrens rights around the world.

Shirin Ebadi has been a member of PeaceJam since 2004.


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