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.”