Published on Friday, October 10, 2003 by Agence France Presse
New Nobel Peace Laureate Against Foreign Intervention in Iran
Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi told a news conference that she opposed any foreign intervention in Iran.
"The fight for human rights is conducted in Iran by the Iranian people and we are against any foreign intervention in Iran," she said.
The 56-year-old lawyer and human rights activist was speaking after earlier being awarded the Nobel peace prize, becoming the first ever Muslim woman to get the honor.
Ebadi, 56, was given the coveted prize "for her efforts for democracy and human rights," particularly for women and children in her country, which has been under Islamic rule since its 1979 revolution, the Nobel Committee said.
She is also the first Iranian to win any Nobel prize.
"This prize belongs not only to me, it belongs to everybody who work for democracy and peace in Iran," she told AFP by telephone from her Paris home, saying she was "shocked" by the award.
"Everybody in the world and in Iran believes that democracy is the best way for living in Iran. I'm very glad that the Nobel prize will help me to help my people," she said, adding that she may now put off her return to Tehran scheduled for later Friday.
The Nobel Committee said part of the reason it chose Ebadi was because of its tradition of provoking certain countries to "speed up" the process of human rights and democracy in areas of the world.
Iran's conservative-controlled state broadcasters remained silent about the award as the news flashed around the globe, but later the reformist government declared it was "happy" with Ebadi receiving the honor.
Ebadi became Iran's first woman judge in 1974, but lost that post in the Islamic Revolution five years later when Islamic clerics took over and decreed that women could not preside over courts.
"My problem is not with Islam, it's with the culture of patriarchy," Ebadi told Britain's Guardian newspaper in June. "Practices such as stoning have no foundation in the Koran."
Ebadi spent time in jail for attending a 2001 conference on Iranian reform in Berlin. She has maintained a high profile for her feminist struggle also by writing many books and articles.
She has said that pursuing a struggle for human rights in Iran entails constant fear, but, she said in a 1999 interview to the Christian Science Monitor: "I have learned to overcome my fear."
The Nobel Peace Prize, which carries a purse of 10 million Swedish kroner (1.1 million euros, 1.3 million dollars), is decided by an Oslo-based Nobel Committee which counts two men and three women.
Ebadi was selected from a field of 165 candidates for the prize, among them Pope John Paul II and former Czech president Vaclav Havel.
The committee said Ebadi, who is married with two daughters, "has stood up as a sound professional, a courageous person, and has never heeded the threats to her own safety ... In an era of violence, she has consistently supported non-violence."
"It is a pleasure for the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the Peace Prize to a woman who is part of the Muslim world, and of whom that world can be proud -- along with all who fight for human rights wherever they live," it said.
"We hope the prize will be an inspiration for all those who struggle for human rights and democracy in her country, in the Muslim world, and in all countries where the fight for human rights needs inspiration and support."
But the award drew immediate criticism from supporters of the ailing pope, who saw his 25 years of promoting peace going unrewarded by the Nobel committee.
The Nobel Committee erred in snubbing the Polish-born pontiff, Lech Walesa, the former Polish president and 1983 Peace Prize laureate, said in Warsaw.
"For me it is a big mistake, a bad mistake, an unfortunate mistake," Walesa told Polish television.
"I have nothing against this woman, but if there is someone alive in the world who deserves this distinction it is certainly the Holy Father.... The one who has done the most in the world, for all religions, did not get the prize," he said.
The pope, though, was said to be gracious about being overlooked. A Vatican source said he would be sending a message of congratulations to Ebadi.
"The fact that the Nobel prize is being given to a woman and a Muslim is a reason for great satisfaction," said the source, who wished to remain anonymous
Copyright 2003 AFP