(1947– ) Iranian human rights activist
Shirin Ebadi is a democracy and human rights activist and a lawyer. She was born in northwestern Iran to a Shi’i Muslim family in 1947 and studied law at Tehran University. In 1975 she became the first woman judge in Iran and was appointed president of the Tehran City Court. Following the Islamic revolution in 1979, all female judges, including Ebadi, were removed from the bench and given clerical duties.
Ebadi quit in protest and wrote books and articles on human rights, particularly on the rights of children and women, for Iranian journals. After many years of struggle, in 1992, Ebadi won her lawyer’s license and opened her own practice. She is known for taking cases at the national level, defending liberal and dissident figures. In 2000 she was arrested and imprisoned for “disturbing public opinion” and was given a suspended jail sentence and barred from practicing law (the restriction was later removed). She campaigns for strengthening the legal rights of women and children, advocating a progressive version of Islam.
Her legal defense in controversial cases, pro-reform stance, and outspoken opinions have caused the conservative clerics in Iran to oppose her openly. In 2003 Ebadi was the first Muslim woman and Iranian recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to promote democracy and human rights both domestically and abroad. She teaches law at Tehran University, writes books and articles, and runs her own private legal practice. Her books include The Rights of the Child (1993), Tradition and Modernity (1995), The Rights of Women (2002), and Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution
and Hope (2006).
See also Iran, contemporary; Iranian revolution.