Dr Shirin Ebadi

Nobel Peace Prize winner delivered a stimulating lecture on human rights

Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr Shirin Ebadi delivered a stimulating lecture on human rights in Iran at the University of Exeter at 5pm on Tuesday 10 January.

Dr Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, in recognition of her work as a lawyer and human rights activist, defending in the rights of women, children, and critics of the Iranian regime.

Michael Axworthy, Director of the Centre for Persian and Iranian Studies within the University of Exeter’s Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, invited Dr Ebadi to speak as part of the Centre’s visiting speaker programme. 

Mr Axworthy said: ”Iran is constantly in the news, whether for its controversial nuclear programme, for tensions with Israel and the United States, for the agitation of ordinary Iranians asking for greater political freedoms, for the position of women in Iranian society or for human rights abuses. Much of the reporting and comment tends to be sensationalised or misinformed, or otherwise misleading. This makes it doubly valuable to have the opportunity to hear from someone like Dr Ebadi, with long experience of the reality of these matters at first hand.”

Dr Ebadi trained as a lawyer in the time of the Shah, and served as a judge before the 1979 revolution. She was the first female judge ever appointed in Iran, but after the Islamic revolution was prevented from working in her profession by a ruling that women could not be judges. For many years she was unable to practice as a lawyer, but began to do so again in 1992. In the late 90s she represented several victims of injustice, including the families of some of those who were murdered by members of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security.

After the award of the Nobel prize in 2003, she continued to defend victims of regime oppression, including members of the Bahai faith that the Iranian regime regard as apostates from Islam. In 2008 her offices were attacked and eventually closed down, and threats were made against her daughter. However, during the Bush administration in the US, she also spoke out against forcing a change of regime in Iran, and defended Iran’s right to a civil nuclear programme.

Dr Ebadi was outside Iran during the time of the disputed 2009 elections and was advised not to return. Since then she has lived abroad, mainly in London.

A recording of the talk is available here.

Date: 6 January 2012

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