PARIS (AFP)–IRAN’S first ever Nobel Peace Prize winner–Shirin Ebadi–wasted no time today in pursuing her bold fight for human rights–calling for the release of political prisoners in her homeland but warning the United States not to intervene.
Just hours after becoming the first Muslim woman to win the prestigious accolade–Ebadi also spoke out against rights abuses around the world–taking aim at the US occupation of Iraq and describing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an unequal war of "stones against weapons".
A lawyer and one of Iran’s most prominent human rights defenders–Ebadi’s campaigning on behalf of women–children and outspoken dissidents has earned her the wrath of the Islamic republic’s religious hardliners.
But at a packed press conference in Paris–the woman who became Iran’s first female judge only to be stripped of the post by the ruling clergy after the 1979 Islamic revolution–pulled no punches.
"Today many people who fight for liberty and democracy [in Iran] are in prison. I hope for their release as soon as possible," she said–appearing without the headscarf women are required to wear under Iran’s Islamic law.
In a direct jab at the United States–which regards Iran as part of an "axis of evil" and accuses it of secretly building nuclear weapons – Ebadi came out against foreign intervention in her country.
"The fight for human rights is conducted in Iran by the Iranian people and we are against any foreign intervention in Iran," she said.
She said she was "moved and shocked" to receive the accolade–which has only been awarded to 10 other women in the 102-year history of the Nobel prize–and had yet to decide what to do with the prize money of 10 million Swedish kroner ($1.89 million).
"The prize gives me more energy to continue the fight for a better future …. This day does not belong to me–but to all activists for human rights in the world," she said.