Shirin Ebadi is the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She has inspired millions around the globe through her work as a human rights lawyer defending women and children against a brutal regime in Iran. Now Ebadi tells her story of courage and defiance in the face of a government out to destroy her, her family, and her mission: to bring justice to the people and the country she loves.
For years the Islamic Republic tried to intimidate Ebadi, but after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rose to power in 2005, the censorship and persecution intensified. The government wiretapped Ebadi’s phones, bugged her law firm, sent spies to follow her, harassed her colleagues, detained her daughter, and arrested her sister on trumped-up charges. It shut down her lectures, fired up mobs to attack her home, seized her offices, and nailed a death threat to her front door. Despite finding herself living under circumstances reminiscent of a spy novel, nothing could keep Ebadi from speaking out and standing up for human dignity.
But it was not until she received a phone call from her distraught husband—and he made a shocking confession that would all but destroy her family—that she realized what the intelligence apparatus was capable of to silence its critics. The Iranian government would end up taking everything from Shirin Ebadi—her marriage, friends, and colleagues, her home, her legal career, even her Nobel Prize—but the one thing it could never steal was her spirit to fight for justice and a better future.
Ebadi discusses her book Until We Are Free: My Fight for Human Rights in Iran, in with the Kennedy School's Swanee Hunt.
BIO: Ambassador Swanee Hunt
Swanee Hunt’s mission is to achieve gender parity, especially as a means to end war and rebuild societies, as well as to alleviate poverty and other human suffering. At Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Hunt is the Eleanor Roosevelt Lecturer in Public Policy. In 1997, she founded the Women and Public Policy Program, a research center concerned with domestic and foreign policy, which she directed for more than a decade. She teaches “Inclusive Security,” exploring how women are systematically excluded from peace processes, the impact, and the policy steps needed to rectify the problem.
From 1993 to 1997, Hunt served as ambassador to Austria, where she hosted negotiations and international symposia focused on stabilizing the neighboring Balkan states. Prior to that, she made her mark as a civic leader and philanthropist in Denver, where she led initiatives on public education, affordable housing, women’s empowerment, and mental health services for two mayors and the governor. In 2007, Ambassador Hunt was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She is a widely published columnist and has authored three books: the award-winning This Was Not Our War: Bosnian Women Reclaiming the Peace, her memoir, Half-Life of a Zealot, and Rwandan Women Rising.
BIO: Shirin Ebadi
Dr. Shirin Ebadi was one of Iran’s first female judges and served as the first female chief magistrate of one of the country’s highest courts until the 1979 Islamic Revolution stripped her of her judgeship. In the 1990s Ebadi returned to the law as a defender of women’s and children’s rights, founding a human rights center that spearheaded legal reform and public debate around the Islamic Republic’s discriminatory laws. She has defended many of the country’s most prominent prisoners of conscience and spent nearly a month in prison in 1999 for her activities. For many years she was at the center of Iran’s grassroots women’s movement. In 2003 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work. Since the election uprising of June 2009 she has lived in exile.
Photo Credit: John Murphy