Iranian rights activist wins Nobel
(CNN) -- Iranian activist Shirin Ebadi has won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for her focus on human rights, especially on the struggle to improve the status of women and children.
Ebadi, one of Iran's first female judges before being forced to stand down after the Islamic revolution, said she hoped the award could bring change in her country. She is the first Iranian to receive the honor since it was first awarded in 1901 and the 11th woman.
The 56-year-old said she was in Paris for a visit and traveling back to Tehran Friday when the Nobel Committee called and told her to delay the trip.
"I'm shocked because I didn't imagine that I won this yet," she told CNN, hours after learning she had won the prize, for which she receives 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.3 million).
Asked at a news conference in the French capital how she thought the religious hardliners in Iran would react, Ebadi, 56, said: "In my view there is no difference between Islam and human rights.
"The real Muslims should be very happy and should support the Nobel Peace Prizes."
Ole Danbolt Mjoes, head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said earlier: "It is a pleasure for the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the Peace Prize to a woman who is part of the Muslim world, and of whom that world can be proud -- along with all who fight for human rights wherever they live."
"As a lawyer, judge, lecturer, writer and activist, she has spoken out clearly and strongly in her country, Iran, and far beyond its borders," a statement from the Nobel Committee added. (Full text)
"She has stood up as a sound professional, a courageous person, and has never heeded the threats to her own safety."
Ebadi received Norway's Rafto Prize in 2001 for her sustained fight for human rights and democracy in the Islamic country.
She received her law degree from the University of Tehran and, as a lawyer, has been involved in several controversial political cases. As a result, she has been imprisoned by Iranian authorities on numerous occasions. (Profile)
From 1975 to 1979, she served as president of the city court of Tehran and became a judge. But after the revolution in 1979 she was forced to resign and now works as a lawyer and also teaches at the University of Tehran.
She successfully campaiged to reveal those responsible for the 1999 attack on Tehran University students. Several students died in the violence.
Ebadi is the founder and leader of the Association for Support of Children's Rights in Iran. She is also the author of a number of books on human rights.
Reaction in Iran reflected the split between President Mohammad Khatami's reformist government and Islamic hardliners, and state media did not immediately refer to Ebadi's prize.
"This prize carries the message that Europe intends to put further pressure on human rights issues in Iran as a political move to achieve its particular objectives," Amir Mohebian, an editor of the hardline Resalat newspaper, told Reuters.
But the news agency reported that Vice-President Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a leading reformist, had called the award "very good news for every Iranian" and a sign of the active role played by Iranian women in politics.
Nobel experts said the five members of the Nobel committee, who include three women, probably chose Ebadi as a way of promoting change in Iran. The Middle Eastern nation was once branded part of an "axis of evil" by U.S. President George W. Bush with pre-war Iraq and North Korea.
Former Polish president and 1983 peace laureate Lech Walesa criticized the committee for passing over the Polish pope.
"I have nothing against this lady, but if there is anyone alive who deserves this year's Nobel Peace Prize it is the Holy Father," he told the TVN 24 news channel.
But the pope's opposition to birth control, pre-marital sex, homosexuality and female priests possibly appeared intolerant to many people, especially women, in Norway despite a 25-year-reign devoted to peace and reconciliation.
-- CNN Managing Editor for International News Parisa Khosravi contributed to this report