| Shirin Ebadi with the Nobel diploma in Oslo’s City Hall. (AFP)
Oslo, Dec. 10 (Reuters): Iran’s Shirin Ebadi became the first Muslim woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize today and sent a bold anti-war message to the West, accusing it of hiding behind the September 11 attacks to violate human rights.
Reformist lawyer Ebadi was handed the $1.4- million prize and a gold medal by the head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee at a glittering ceremony at Oslo City Hall. A tireless campaigner for women’s and children’s rights, Ebadi has challenged fundamental articles of Iranian law such as those saying a woman’s life is worth half that of a man or that a woman needs her husband’s permission to leave the country.
Hailed as a hero among Iranian reformists and shunned by Tehran’s hardline clerics, Ebadi accused the US administration of ignoring UN resolutions in West Asia yet using them as a pretext to go to war in Iraq.
“In the past two years, some states have violated the universal principles and laws of human rights by using the events of September 11 and the war on international terrorism as a pretext,” she said in her acceptance speech.
“Regulations restricting human rights and basic freedoms... have been justified and given legitimacy under the cloak of the war on terrorism,” Ebadi told the ceremony, attended by Norwegian royalty.
Dressed in a pale yellow skirt with a matching jacket and wearing no headscarf, a stern Ebadi spoke in Farsi to an audience including Hollywood couple Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, star hosts of tomorrow’s Nobel concert.
Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon, acting as regent for his ailing father King Harald, attended the ceremony with his mother Queen Sonja and his pregnant wife Crown Princess Mette-Marit.
As a defence lawyer, Ebadi earned a reputation for taking on cases others dared not touch. She insists human rights can go hand in hand with Islam and many exiled pro-reformists criticise her as too soft on Tehran, while Iranian hardliners call her a western stooge.
The 56-year-old laureate, who was jailed in Iran in 2000 as a result of one of her high-profile legal cases, lashed out at what she called breaches of the Geneva conventions at the US Guantanamo Bay military jail.
Ebadi, Iran’s first female judge before the 1979 Islamic revolution forced her to step aside in favour of men, said it was worrying that human rights were violated by the same Western democracies that had initiated the principles.