top of page

Shirin Ebadi Biographical

This post was originally posted by the Nobel Prize.

I was born in the city of Hamadan [northwestern Iran] in 1947. My family were academics and practising Muslims. At the time of my birth my father was the head of Hamedan’s Registry Office. My father, Mohammad Ali Ebadi, one of the first lecturers in commercial law, had written several books. He passed away in 1993.

I spent my childhood in a family filled with kindness and affection. I have two sisters and a brother all of whom are highly educated. My mother dedicated all her time and devotion to our upbringing.

I came to Tehran with my family when I was a one year old and have since been a resident in the capital. I began my education at Firuzkuhi primary school and went on to Anoshiravn Dadgar and Reza Shah Kabir secondary schools for my higher education. I sat the Tehran University entrance exams and gained a place at the Faculty of Law in 1965. I received my law degree in three-and-a-half years, and immediately sat the entrance exams for the Department of Justice. After a six-month apprenticeship in adjudication, I began to serve officially as a judge in March 1969. While serving as a judge, I continued my education and obtained a doctorate with honours in private law from Tehran University in 1971.

I held a variety of positions in the Justice Department. In 1975, I became the President of Bench 24 of the [Tehran] City Court. I am the first woman in the history of Iranian justice to have served as a judge. Following the victory of the Islamic Revolution in February 1979, since the belief was that Islam forbids women to serve as judges, I and other female judges were dismissed from our posts and given clerical duties. They made me a clerk in the very court I once presided over. We all protested. As a result, they promoted all former female judges, including myself, to the position of “experts” in the Justice Department. I could not tolerate the situation any longer, and so put in a request for early retirement. My request was accepted. Since the Bar Association had remained closed for some time since the revolution and was being managed by the Judiciary, my application for practising law was turned down. I was, in effect, housebound for many years. Finally, in 1992 I succeeded in obtaining a lawyer’s licence and set up my own practice.

I used my time of unemployment to write several books and had many articles published in Iranian journals. After receiving my lawyer’s licence I accepted to defend many cases. Some were national cases. Among them, I represented the families of the serial murders victims (the family of Dariush and Parvaneh Foruhar) and Ezzat Ebrahiminejad, who were killed during the attack on the university dormitory. I also participated in some press-related cases. I took on a large number of social cases, too, including child abuse. Recently I agreed to represent the mother of Mrs Zahra Kazemi, a photojournalist killed in Iran.

I also teach at university. Each year, a number of students from outside Iran join my human rights training courses.

I am married. My husband is an electrical engineer. We have two daughters. One is 23 years old. She is studying for a doctorate in telecommunications at McGill University in Canada. The other is 20 years old and is in her third year at Tehran University where she reads law.

Social Activities

–Leading several research projects for the UNICEF office in Tehran.

–Cofounder of the Association for Support of Children’s Rights, 1995. I was the association’s president until 2000, and have continued to assist them as legal adviser. Currently the association has over 500 active members.

–Providing various stages of free tuition in children’s rights and human rights.–Cofounder of the Human Rights Defence Centre with four defence lawyers, 2001. I am the centre’s president.

–Delivering over 30 lectures to university and academic conferences and seminars on human rights. The lectures have been delivered in Iran, France, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Britain and America.

–Representing several journalists or their families, accused or sentenced in relation to freedom of expression. They include Habibollah Peyman (for writing articles and delivering speeches on freedom of expression); Abbas Marufi, the editor-in-chief of the monthly Gardoun (for publishing several interviews and poems); Faraj Sarkuhi (editor-in-chief of Adineh monthly).

–Representing families of serial murder victims (the Foruhar family).

–Representing the family of Ezzat Ebrahiminejad, murdered in the 9 July 1999 attack on the university dormitory.

–Representing the mother of Arin Golshani, a child separated from her mother as a consequence of the child custody law. She was found tortured to death at the home of her stepmother.

–Proposing to the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majlis) to ratify a law on prohibiting all forms of violence against children; as a result the law was promptly debated and ratified in the summer of 2002.



Criminal Laws, Tehran 1972. Published by Bank Melli of Iran (Professor Rahnama; Professor Abdolhoseyn Aliabadi).

The Rights of the Child; A study in the legal aspects of children’s rights in Iran, 1987. Translated into English by Mohammad Zamiran. Published by UNICEF, 1993.

Medical Laws; Tehran, 1988. Published by Zavar.–Young Workers, Tehran, 1989. Published by Roshangaran.

Copyright Laws, Tehran, 1989. Published by Roshangaran.

Architectural Laws, Tehran, 1991. Published by Roshangaran.

The Rights of Refugees, Tehran, 1993. Published by Ganj-e Danesh.

History and Documentation of Human Rights in Iran, Tehran, 1993. Published by Roshangaran.

Tradition and Modernity, Tehran 1995. Written by Mohammad Zamiran, Shirin Ebadi. Published by Ganj-e Danesh.

Children’s Comparative Law, Tehran, 1997. Published by Kanoun (This book was translated into English by Mr Hamid Marashi, and published by UNICEF in Tehran in 1998).

The Rights of Women, Tehran, 2002. Published by Ganj-e Danesh.

* Details provided are taken from the original publications.


– “The Child and Family Law”; A series of articles appearing in the Encyclopedia Iranica. Published by Columbia University.

– “The Rights of Parents”; Article published in the journal Studies in the Social Impacts of Biotechnology. Published by CNRS, France

– “Women and Legal Forms of Violence in Iran”; Article published in the Bonyad Iran journal in Paris on the subject of violence.

– Over 70 articles on various aspects of human rights which have appeared in various publications in Iran. Some have been translated into English. They were presented at CRC [Convention on the Rights of the Child], a seminar organized by UNICEF in 1997.

– Articles published in various weeklies, including Fekr-e Now New Ideas, on various aspects of laws relating to women.

Prizes and Accolades

1. An official Human Rights Watch observer, 1996.

2. The selection of The Rights of the Child as Book of the Year by the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry.

3. Recipient of the Rafto Human Rights Foundation prize for human rights activities, Norway 2001.

4. The Nobel Peace Prize, Norway 2003.

From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 2003, Editor Tore Frängsmyr, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 2004

This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and later published in the book series Les Prix Nobel/ Nobel Lectures/The Nobel Prizes. The information is sometimes updated with an addendum submitted by the Laureate.

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 2003

6 views0 comments


bottom of page