Dr. Shirin Ebadi was born in 1947 in Hamadan-Iran. Her father, Professor Mohammad Ali Ebadi was a lecturer in Commercial Law. When Shirin was only a year old, her family moved to Teheran where she received her education. In 1965, she started her law degree, completing it 3 years later. In 1970, after a period of internship, she became one the first female judges in Iran. She soon progressed through the ranks and was appointed Chief Magistrate of the 26th Divisional Court in Tehran in 1975 – again making her the youngest and first female for the post. In 1979, immediately after the Islamic revolution in Iran, all female judges were dismissed as the then revolutionaries believed that women were forbidden from passing judgment. She was demoted to the post of a magistrate’s clerk in the very same court over which she once presided. Soon after, she opted for early retirement.
In 1992, she set up a private practice handling many controversial political and human rights cases in Iran and has since defended many of the country’s most prominent prisoners of conscience. She also took on the case of the seven leaders of the Baha’i faith in Iran. All these activities led to her incarceration on charges of spreading and publishing lies against the Islamic Republic in 1999. She spent 25 days in solitary confinement. The first court convicted her to one-and-a-half year imprisonment and barred her from practicing law for 5 years. In the appeal process and due to international pressure, her sentence was reduced to a fine.
In 2003, Dr. Ebadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work. She used some of the prize money to set up an office for the Center for Defenders of Human Rights and support the families of political prisoners. Dr. Ebadi left Iran shortly before the June 2009 presidential election to participate in a conference in Spain. She did not return to Iran owing to the severe restrictions imposed on human rights activists, and upon receiving news of her colleagues’ arrests and many killings. She continued her activities in de facto exile. The Iranian government, disapproving of her actions, filed a case against her in the revolutionary court. The government confiscated her properties, including the office of the CDHR, on the pretext of unpaid taxes. Moreover, to blackmail and silence Dr. Ebadi, her sister and her husband were arrested by the security forces.
Along with sister Laureate Jody Williams (USA), Shirin Ebadi took the lead in establishing the “Nobel Women’s Initiative,” together with sister Laureates Wangari Maathai (Kenya), Rigoberta Menchu Tum (Guatemala) and Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan Maguire (Northern Ireland). Launched in January 2006, its mission is to use the prestige and access afforded by the Nobel Prize to spotlight and promote efforts of women’s rights activists, researchers and organizations working to advance peace, justice and equality for women. By helping to advance the cause of women, the Nobel Women’s Initiative advances all of humanity.