Shirin Ebadi is a Nobel Prize Winner and human rights activist from Iran. She is the first Muslim woman to win the prize. She was born in 1947 in Hamadan, Iran, after receiving a law degree from the University of Tehran she became the first female judge in Iran She had to resign as a judge after the islamic revolution in 1979, when conservative Islamic clerics came to power and imposed severe restrictions on the role of women. Ebadi currently teaches law at the University of Tehran, and is a fervent defender of the legal status of children and women. In 1996, Human Rights Watch honored her as a leading human rights defender for her work on human rights in Iran.
As a lawyer, Ebadi is known for taking up cases of liberals and dissidents who have fallen foul of the judiciary. Among others, she represented the family of Dariush Farouhar, a dissident intellectual who, as well as his wife, was found stabbed to death at their home. The couple was among several dissidents who died in a series of murders that terrorized Iran’s intellectual community. Suspicion fell on extremist hardliners wanting to put a stop to the more liberal climate fostered by President Khatami, who has championed freedom of speech.
In 2000, Ebadi was accused of distributing the videotaped confession of a hardliner who claimed that prominent conservative leaders were instigating physical attacks on pro-reform gatherings and figures. She received a suspended jail sentence and a professional ban (which was later lifted). The case brought increased focus on Iran from human rights groups abroad. In 2001, Ebadi established a non-governmental organization in Iran, the Center for the Defense of Human Rights. She has written several books and articles on human rights. Some her books translated into English are The Rights of the Child. A Study of Legal Aspects of Childrens Rights in Iran (1994, published with support from UNICEF), History and Documentation of Human Rights in Iran (2000) and Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope (2006).
Time Magazine named Shirin Ebadi one of 2004’s top 100 most influential people.