2003 – Shirin Ebadi, Iranian human rights attorney

Shirin Ebadi graduated from the University of Tehran with a law degree and until 1979 was one of the first female judges in Iran. After the revolution in 1979, she was forced to resign. She now works as a lawyer and teaches at the University of Tehran.

Ebadi is known for promoting peaceful, democratic solutions to serious problems in society. She is well-known in her country for her legal defense of victims of the conservative faction’s attack on freedom of speech and political freedom. Ebadi represents Reformed Islam, and argues for a new interpretation of Islamic law which is in harmony with vital human rights such as democracy, equality before the law, religious freedom and freedom of speech. She is a socially responsible Muslim who sees no conflict between Islam and fundamental human right and an activist for the rights of refugees, women and children. She is the founder of Children’s Rights Support Association in Iran.

She argues on one hand that the war on terrorism does not justify human rights violations such as those occurring at Guatanamo, but just as quickly speaks out against governments in the Muslim world using Islam to justify terrorism and oppression.