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IN THE NEWS - Shirin Ebadi Receives Nobel Peace Prize, Criticizes West - 2003-12-13

Broadcast: December 13, 2003

This is Bob Doughty with In the News, in VOA Special English.

Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi has become the first Muslim woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She accepted the award for two-thousand-three at a ceremony Wednesday in Oslo, Norway. The chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee presented her with a gold medal and a prize award worth more than one-million dollars.

Shirin Ebadi is fifty-six years old. She received the prize for her efforts to fight for democracy and the rights of women and children in Iran. As a lawyer, Mizz Ebadi has opposed the actions of judges and political officials. She has represented political prisoners and the victims of political violence in Iran. She has received death threats as a result of her activities.

Mizz Ebadi became the first female judge in Iran in nineteen-seventy-five. Four years later, after the Islamic revolution, the new leaders declared that women could not carry out such responsibilities. She had to resign.

In nineteen-ninety-nine, government supporters killed several students at Tehran University. Mizz Ebadi successfully campaigned to identify those responsible. The next year, she was jailed for three weeks on charges of criticizing Islamic government officials.

Mizz Ebadi teaches at the University of Tehran and continues to work as a lawyer. She also is the founder and leader of the Association for Support of Children’s Rights in Iran. And she has written several books on human rights.

Shirin Ebadi was chosen for the Nobel prize in October. Since then, Iranian reformers have called on her to do more to get the unelected religious leaders in Iran to support change. Opponents of change have accused her of secretly working for Western interests.

In her acceptance speech this week, she said the Peace Prize would help influence other women in Islamic countries to seek their rights. She denounced Islamic leaders who use religion as an excuse for dictatorship.

But Mizz Ebadi had stronger criticism of Western nations. She indirectly accused the United States and its allies of using the war on terrorism as an excuse to violate international law and human rights. She asked why U-N resolutions on the Palestinians have not been fully enforced, while those on Iraq have. And she criticized the treatment of terrorist suspects jailed at the United States naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

A five-member Nobel committee chose Mizz Ebadi for the award. Former American President Jimmy Carter won the Peace Prize last year. The Nobel prizes were first awarded in nineteen-oh-one. They are presented each year on December tenth.

In a separate ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden, ten other Nobel winners this year received awards in literature, medicine, physics, chemistry and economics.

In the News, in VOA Special English, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Bob Doughty.