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Posted 19 September 2011

UCD honours Shirin Ebadi, the first Muslim woman to win Nobel Peace Prize

Shirin Ebadi who received the Nobel Peace Prize (2003) for her pioneering efforts to promote democracy and human rights, particularly for women and children, has been awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws from UCD.

Shirin Ebadi became one of the first women judges in Iran in 1969. But following the Islamic revolution of 1979, she was demoted to the position of clerical assistant in the court by the new Iranian government under a new policy which prohibited women from serving as judges.

During a thirteen year period when she sought a licence to practise as a lawyer, Dr Ebadi turned to reflection, writing and teaching in the field of human rights.

Dr Shirin Ebadi (centre) pictured with Dr Hugh Brady, President of UCD (left) and Professor Colin Scott, Head of the UCD School of Law (right)
Dr Shirin Ebadi (centre) pictured with Dr Hugh Brady, President of UCD (left) and Professor Colin Scott, Head of the UCD School of Law (right)

Her legal practice has focused on human rights, and in particular the rights of journalists to practice their calling, and victims of human rights abuses, notably women and children.

According to Dr Ebadi, the discrimination against women which she has witnessed and experienced is a product of a patriarchal and male dominated culture and not religion. A culture, which she says, is protective of the interests of traditional rulers.

In 2001 she established an NGO in Tehran, the Human Rights Defenders Centre, which was reported by the BBC in 2010 to have been closed down by the government.

Shirin Ebadi was the first Iranian and the first Muslim woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

"University College Dublin awards the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws to Dr Shirin Ebadi in recognition of her commitment to justice and equality," said Professor Colin Scott, Dean of Law at UCD, and Head of the UCD School of Law, University College Dublin, who delivered the citation at the conferring ceremony.

After receiving the award, Dr Shirin Ebadi said Iranian women became second class citizens after the 1979 revolution in Iran, following the introduction of a series of discriminatory laws against women.

"At this very sensitive juncture it's imperative that the international community should go to the rescue of the Egyptian women otherwise they shall await the same fate as that of the women of Iran," she said.

"The Arab spring is truly realised when these women manage to gain the rights and the discrimination against them has been abolished."

"We must try to promote modern Islamic thinking," she said. "And most importantly Western states should not help support non-democratic Islamic countries which under the pretext of Islam are suppressing their people."


University College Dublin hosted a two-day conference (Law, State and Religion) from 16-17 September 2011 in honour of Dr Shirin Ebadi.

The conference addressed issues of Islam and women's rights, issues facing Moslim communities in Europe, and the plight of the victims of the Madgalene laundries.

Speakers at the conference organised in association with Trinity College Dublin included: Ziba MirHosseini, who produced the well known documentary 'Divorce Iranian Style'; and experts on issues of Islam, gender and human rights: Nazila Ghanea, Oxford University; Anicee Van Engeland-Nourai, University of Exeter; Maleiha Malik, King's College London.

Patrick Allen of Hodge Jones and Allen LLP, London; Maeve O'Rourke, Harvard Global Human Rights Fellow 2010 and Justice for Magdalenes; and Senator Katherine Zappone also addressed the conference.


(Produced by UCD University Relations)


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UCD honours Shirin Ebadi, the first Muslim woman to win Nobel Peace Prize
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