Iran's 2003 Nobel Laureate Says Prize Helped Her Everywhere But Home

AP: A year after her Nobel Peace Prize was announced in Oslo, human rights activist Shirin Ebadi said today that the honor
had helped her cause everywhere except at home in Iran.
"The Nobel Peace Prize has given me more international possibilities. It has opened a lot of doors," said the Iranian lawyer, writer and activist. "But the prize has not made my work any easier in Iran." Associated Press

Oslo - A year after her Nobel Peace Prize was announced in Oslo, human rights activist Shirin Ebadi said today that the honor had helped her cause everywhere except at home in Iran.

"The Nobel Peace Prize has given me more international possibilities. It has opened a lot of doors," said the Iranian lawyer, writer and activist. "But the prize has not made my work any easier in Iran."

Ebadi was in the Norwegian capital for a two-day conference called "Activists Under Attack," focusing on what delegates said was a growing threat to global human rights following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States.

"The situation for civil rights activists in Iran is not very good," Ebadi said before the conference, which is set to open Wednesday. "They don't have the necessary security to do their work."

Ebadi became Iran's first woman judge during the waning years of the Western-backed monarchy, but was forced to resign when an Islamic regime seized power in the 1979 revolution. Her law office then became a base for human rights militants.

She was the first Iranian and first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, announced last year in Oslo. This year's prize, announced last week, went to Kenyan environmental activist Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win.

Apart from pressure about its human rights policies, Iran is also in a dispute with the United States and other Western powers about claims that Tehran has a secret program to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says it only intends to use atomic power to generate electricity.

Ebadi, 57, kept her responses general when asked about Iran's nuclear program, saying only that "nobody needs atomic weapons. They should be destroyed."

She was joining activists from 15-20 countries for a conference on human rights, organized to mark the 10th anniversary of the Human Rights House, founded in Oslo and now operating in four countries.

"Human rights is in real peril, as never before since the Cold War," Bernt Hagtvet, a professor at the University of Oslo and a member of the Human Rights House board, said at the news conference.

"Nine-11 was a watershed," he said, referring to the 2001 attacks in the United States and adding that the war on terrorism is now often being used as an excuse to erode human rights.

American Gara LaMarche, of the Open Society Institute, agreed, saying that since 9-11, the United States has taken such controversial steps as the Patriot Act, the imprisonment of terror suspects without trial, and curtailed individual rights in the name of fighting terrorism.

"That is seized upon by dictators ... to justify restrictions on human rights," he said.

The conference, with about 130 participants, is to end Thursday with a joint statement.