An Iranian lawyer has won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize – a political move designed to inspire democratic reform within the Muslim world. Not to mention to Iran. Shirin Ebadi (right) 56, is also a judge, lecturer and writer. The Nobel committee said she had consistently spoken out on human rights issues, supported non-violence and ignored threats to her own safety. It also praised her for seeing “no conflict between Islam and fundamental human rights” and for promoting dialogue between different cultures and religions. She is the first Iranian to win the prize and only the eleventh female winner.

The choice of a Muslim comes in a year which has been dominated by the Iraq war and its aftermath. It also comes amid growing international tension over the development of Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said the award was for her efforts for democracy and human rights, and her focus on the rights of women and children in particular.

“We hope the prize will be an inspiration for all those who struggle for human rights and democracy in her country, in the Muslim world, and in all countries where the fight for human rights needs inspiration and support,” it said.

“I’m a Muslim, so you can be a Muslim and support democracy,” she said after the news was announced. “It’s very good for human rights in Iran, especially for children’s rights in Iran. I hope I can be useful.”

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