It takes a lot of guts to be an activist in your own country, especially as a female in a patriarchal society. Shirin Ebadi grew up in a house with two loving parents who encouraged the pursuit of education. All of the family's 4 children received a higher education, including Shirin, earning her doctorate in law (with honors) at an accelerated pace thanks to her serious study skills and hard work. After passing the entrance exams to become a judge she became Iran's first ever female judge, breaking a huge barrier in the Islamic culture.
Unfortunately, four years later after the Iranian Revolution in which the country's long lasting Persian government was overthrown and replaced with an Islamic Republic, the new leaders, interpreted Islamic law in their own way claiming that women were not meant to be judges and stripped Ebadi and her fellow female colleges of their titles, making them secretaries instead. In her own biography she says,
"They made me a clerk in the very court I once presided over. We all protested. As a result, they promoted all former female judges, including myself, to the position of "experts" in the Justice Department. I could not tolerate the situation any longer, and so put in a request for early retirement."
Ebadi did not let this injustice to women slow her down. Instead she put her efforts into writing books, studying and eventually (1992) she returned to practicing law as a lawyer defending many controversial cases in which she fought the corrupt interpretation of the Islamic law by the Iranian government. One such twisted law stated that families who have been victims of rape or murder had to pay the government to execute their perpetrators in order to restore honor to their family. Shirin also took on many other cases that defended children in custody battles that heavily favored the fathers, regaurdless if they were abusive or unfit.
Her battles in the courtroom became known worldwide and she quickly became a hero for those women and children suffering at the hands of those abusing their power and twisting their religious beliefs to oppress them. And though she was popular among many, she was increasingly making herself a target against her own country's government. Yet, despite threats and opposition she continued to do good and in 2002 she helped ratify an Iranian bill prohibiting all forms of violence against children.
It was for these things and many more that in 2003 Shirin Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize. She was the first Muslim woman and Iranian to ever win the prize and though her fans greeted her in the airport after a trip to Paris she was given very little coverage in the media and the Iranian government didn't recognize her award. She even states that the Iranian Revolutionaries took her award and other treasures after they went missing from her London apartment and her assets were frozen by the government.
After many more intensified death threats to her and her family, she moved in 2009 to Europe living in exile from her own country.
Shirin Ebadi's fearless work in defending the oppressed and speaking out against an unjust power, right in her own backyard, is awe-inspiring and can embolden us to stand up for those still weighed down today. It's the hope of Daisy May & Me that this shirt named after her will give us the courage to be and do like her.
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