Page last updated at 18:55 GMT, Tuesday, 14 October 2003 19:55 UK

Nobel win sparks Iran controversy

By Clare Doyle
BBC News

The unexpected awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Iranian lawyer, Shirin Ebadi, has caused huge controversy in Iran.

One newspaper likened it to an atomic bomb exploding in political and media circles.

Shirin Ebadi
Ebadi has fought in the corner of high-profile Iranian dissidents

The government kept silent on the subject for several days and the official media relegated the news to the inside pages or the bottom of the news bulletins.

Hardliners say the prize has been politicised, and that Mrs Ebadi is allowing herself to be used by the West.

But those who have written to the BBC's Persian Online website give a totally different insight into how Iranians view the prize.

"This is the best news I've heard since Iran beat Australia in the World Cup," said Mohammad Hossein Ghasemi, from Burjand.

"The world has proved that it loves the Iranian people and the criteria aren't based on propaganda, religion, race or sex, it's just based on someone's personal qualities."


It was one of many e-mails from people who welcomed the prize with delight and huge enthusiasm.

Others found the prize particularly inspiring for Iranian women, like Nargez who wrote from Tehran:

"In my country, people, and especially women, who think and write are marginalised. Shirin Ebadi's prize made me think that there is a place here for intellectuals who challenge the authorities, and they can take pride in their work."

Giving the prize to Mrs Ebadi at this critical time might have political motives, but it also shows that the global community does have a constructive approach towards Iran
Reza, from Bushehr

After the initial euphoria, some writers did begin to express doubts about the motives of the Nobel committee who award the prize, like Mohsen from Tehran:

"If we look at the history of the Nobel prize, we see that it was created by the United States, and during the Cold War, it was given to people who worked against the Soviet Union. Now it's been given to an Iranian - for political reasons."

But even writers who saw something suspicious in the timing of prize - when Iran is under international pressure over its nuclear programme - generally were not quarrelling with the choice.

"Giving the prize to Mrs Ebadi at this critical time might have political motives, but it also shows that the global community does have a constructive approach towards Iran," said Reza from Bushehr.

These Iranians do not reflect a true cross-section of society, as they are obviously people with access to computers and the internet.

But from our unscientific study, it seems that although the government may not be pleased about it, many Iranians are proud of Shirin Ebadi and identify closely with her work on human rights.

Crowds welcome Iran Nobel winner
14 Oct 03 |  Middle East
Khatami advice to Nobel laureate
14 Oct 03 |  Middle East
Peace award divides Iran
11 Oct 03 |  Middle East
Nobel winner's plea to Iran
10 Oct 03 |  Middle East
Profile: Shirin Ebadi
27 Nov 09 |  Middle East
Shirin Ebadi's peace prize citation
10 Oct 03 |  Middle East

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific