Dr. Shirin Ebadi, lawyer, former judge, activist and 2003 Noble Prize winner was born on June 22, 1947 to a middle class Iranian family in Hamadan, Iran. Her father, Professor Mohammad Ali Ebadi, was an author and a lecturer. His book “the Business law” was later edited and updated by Shirin.
When she was only a year old, her family moved to Tehran where she carried out her education. At 17, she started her law degree, completing it three years later. After a brief internship, she became one of the first female judges in Iran. At the age of 22 she was possibly the youngest judge in the history of the country. She soon progressed through the ranks and was appointed Chief Magistrate of 26th Divisional Court in Tehran – again making her the youngest and first female for the post.
Shirin married in 1975 and has two daughters, Negar and Nargess.
In 1979, immediately after the Islamic revelation in Iran, all women judges were dismissed as the revolutionaries of the time believed it is forbidden for a woman to pass judgment. She was demoted to a Magistrate’s Clerk in the very same court she once presided. Soon after, she opted for early retirement.
In 1992, she set up a private practice handling contentious cases. She was the defense lawyer for many controversial names in Iran including Zahra Kazemi (a journalist killed in Evin prison), Parvaneh and Dariush Foroohar (well-known political activists, killed by security forces), Ezat Ebrahim Nejad (killed in dormitory of Tehran University in 1999), Zahra Bani Yaghoob (a young doctor, killed in detention) and also the case of the seven leaders of the Baha’i faith in Iran. All these activities led to her incarceration on charge of spreading and publishing lies against the Islamic Republic in 1999. She spent 25 days in solitary confinement. The first court convicted her to a one and half year imprisonment and barred her from practicing law for five years. In the appeal process and due to international pressure, her sentence was reduced to a fine.
Dr. Ebadi won the Nobel Prize in 2003. She used some of the prize money to set up an office for the Center for Defenders of Human Rights and some to support the families of political prisoners. This center became a prominent human rights organization. As a result it was honored by the National Human Rights of France in 2003. In 2008, the center was closed by security forces. They confiscated the building.
Dr. Ebadi left Iran before the presidential election of 2009 to participate in a conference in Spain. She did not return to Iran after receiving news of her colleagues’ arrests and many killings. She continued her activities in exile de facto. 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. To blackmail and silence Dr. Ebadi, her sister and her husband were arrested by the security forces. They have been banned from leaving the country.
She has published over 70 articles and 13 books dedicated to various aspects of human rights, some of which have been published by UNICEF. In 2004, she was named by Forbes Magazine as one of the 100 most powerful women in the world. Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope, was published by Random House in May 2006 in English, French and German. It has also been published in 13 other languages. Her latest book, the Golden Cage, was published in 2008.