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Last Updated: Friday, 10 October, 2003, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
Iranian activist wins Nobel prize
Shirin Ebadi
Ebadi is the 11th woman to win the peace prize
The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian campaigner for human rights, noted for her work in promoting the rights of women and children.

Ole Danbolt Mjoes, chairman of the five-member selection committee, paid tribute to Ms Ebadi's work both at home and abroad saying that she understood that "No society can be seen as democratic without women being represented".

On hearing of her victory 56-year-old Ms Ebadi, who is in Paris at the moment, said: "I'm a Muslim, so you can be a Muslim and support democracy. It's very good for human rights in Iran, especially for children's rights in Iran. I hope I can be useful."

Ms Ebadi, a lawyer well known throughout Iran, was the country's first female judge, but was forced to resign following the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

This is a message to the Iranian people, to the Muslim world, to the whole world, that human value, the fight for freedom, the fight for rights of women and children should be at the centre
Ole Danbolt Mjoes, prize committee chairman

"As a lawyer, judge, lecturer, writer and activist, she has spoken out clearly and strongly in her country, Iran, and far beyond its borders," the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in a statement announcing the decision.

The committee said she was a "sound professional, a courageous person, and has never heeded the threat to her own safety".

Dark horse

The result surprised observers worldwide - Pope John Paul II was the bookies' favourite to scoop the prestigious award this year amid feverish speculation that he is nearing death.

The Nobel committee emphasised that its choice should be seen as a statement about human rights.

"This is a message to the Iranian people, to the Muslim world, to the whole world, that human value, the fight for freedom, the fight for rights of women and children should be at the centre," Mr Mjoes said.

2002 - Former US President Jimmy Carter
2001 - United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan
2000 - Former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung
1999 - Medecins Sans Frontieres
1998 - David Trimble and John Hume, Northern Ireland
1997 - Jody Williams and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, United States
1996 - Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo and Jose Ramos-Horta, East Timor
1995 - Joseph Rotblat, Britain, and the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs
1994 - Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat; Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, Israel
1993 - Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk, South Africa

"I hope the award of the peace prize to Ebadi can help strengthen and lend support to the cause of human rights in Iran," he added.

Ms Ebadi is the 11th woman to win the prize and the third Muslim.

The BBC's Tehran correspondent Jim Muir says that for the Iranian to win is an enormous boost for human rights campaign there and will be a source great delight for her supporters.

However, he also said that the award will be something of an embarrassment for Iran.

"Hardliners who run the judiciary will see it as outsiders now trying to intervene in Iranian politics. It is an embarrassment to them to see someone they have vilified held up as a shining example."

News unreported

Even as news of the award was hitting front pages worldwide, Iranian state TV made no mention of it, our correspondent said.

The winner is awarded 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.32m), which will be presented in the Norwegian capital Oslo on 10 December, the anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel in 1896.

The results of the annual award are shrouded in mystery until the final announcement, with even the names of nominees kept under wraps for 50 years to protect dissidents from possible reprisals.

This year there were a record 165 nominees for the prestigious award.

The prize was won last year by former United States President Jimmy Carter.

The Nobel Committee announcement
"She [Shirin Ebadi] favours enlightenment and dialogue as the best path to changing attitudes and resolving conflict"

The BBC's Jim Fish
"The Norwegian Nobel Committee surprised many with their choice"

Is Shirin Ebadi the right choice?
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Nobel choices prompt joy and anger
10 Oct 03  |  Middle East
Shirin Ebadi's peace prize citation
10 Oct 03  |  Middle East
Bookies tip Pope for prize
09 Oct 03  |  Europe
Iran's pro-reform lawyers banned
28 Sep 00  |  Middle East
Conviction of Iranian lawyers condemned
29 Sep 00  |  Middle East
Peace award divisive in Iran
10 Oct 03  |  Middle East

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