Shirin Ebadi

2024 Privacy Symposium-Keynote Speaker

Shirin Ebadi

Nobel Peace Prize

Shirin Ebadi was born on June 22, 1947 in the city of Hamadan in Iran. Her father, Professor Mohammad Ali Ebadi, was a law teacher and a human rights defender. His book, Business Law, was later edited and updated by his daughter. 

When Shirin was only one year old, her family moved to Tehran where she completed her education. In 1965, she entered law school and graduated three years later. She was hired as a judge in 1969 after an internship and progressed rapidly. In 1975 she became the head of Branch 26 of the Tehran City Court; at which time she was the first woman and the youngest judge to hold this position. Shirin got married in 1975 and has two daughters named Negar and Narges. In 1979, immediately after the Islamic Revolution in Iran, all female judges were fired because revolutionaries at the time believed that judging and sentencing was forbidden to women. She became an employee of the same court that she had previously presided over. So, she decided to retire early. 

In 1992, She established a private law firm to handle human rights cases. She is the lawyer for many controversial political and human rights cases in Iran, including the cases of Zahra Kazemi (a journalist who was killed in Evin prison), Parvaneh and Dariush Forouhar (known political activists killed by the security forces), and Ezzat Ebrahimnejad (who was killed in the dormitory of the University of Tehran in 1999), and Zahra Bani Yaghoub (a young doctor who was killed in custody). She also represented the case of seven Baha’i leaders in Iran. All these activities led to her arrest and imprisonment on charges of spreading lies against the Islamic Republic in 1999. She spent 25 days in solitary confinement. She was later sentenced to one and a half years in prison and banned for five years working as a lawyer. 

Dr. Ebadi won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize. Part of the money was allocated to establish the office of the Defenders of Human Rights Center and to support the families of political prisoners. The center became a leading human rights organization, which was subsequently recognized by the French National Human Rights Organization in 2003. In 2008, the center’s offices were closed by the security forces and its building confiscated. 

Dr. Ebadi left Iran shortly before the presidential election in June 2009 to attend a conference in Spain. She did not return to Iran due to severe restrictions imposed on human rights activists in Iran after the arrest of her colleagues and the killings of people. She continued her activities in forced exile.  

The Iranian government, dissatisfied with her actions, filed a case against her in the Revolutionary Court. Under the pretext of unpaid taxes, the government confiscated her property, including the office of the Defenders of Human Rights Center. In addition, to force Dr. Ebadi to remain silent, her sister and her husband were arrested by security forces but released a few months later due to popular opposition. However, both were banned from leaving Iran for several years after their release.