Iran: Concern for Shirin Ebadi


English PEN is extremely concerned for the safety of Iranian lawyer, human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi.


According to our information, Ebadi has been subject to increased harassment over recent weeks and has received numerous death threats against herself and her family. On 21 December 2008, the office of the Defenders of Human Rights, a human rights group led by Ebadi, was shut down by security and police officials, reportedly without a warrant.


The following is a statement issued by the Women’s Learning Partnership (WLP) on 30 December 2008:


We, the undersigned, representing women’s and human rights organizations working in Muslim-majority countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, express our grave concern for the personal safety of Shirin Ebadi. Ms. Ebadi, a staunch defender of women’s rights activists and human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran and internationally, has been subjected to increased intimidation and harassment by security forces of the Islamic Republic in recent weeks. These actions follow escalating acts of persecution against women activists ranging from search and seizure of computers and personal property and closure of websites to travel bans, imprisonment, and sentencing of tens of prominent women’s rights defenders. Women’s rights activists have been routinely accused of “acting against the national security of the state” for their peaceful activities calling for equal rights for women and men.


Ms. Ebadi is a founding member and head of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, a nongovernmental organization that was forcibly closed by security forces on December 21. A few days later, following a search that yielded no incriminating evidence, Mehr News Agency, affiliated with the government, reported that Ms. Ebadi had failed to pay her taxes – an allegation that has been refuted by Ms. Ebadi. Yesterday, security officers identifying themselves as tax officials stormed and raided her private law offices, attempting to seize two computers and confidential client files, which she refused to surrender until she was forced to do so.


The first Muslim woman to be honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, Ms. Ebadi has represented numerous human rights activists and promoted legal protections for women and children in Iran. Her work in support of democracy and human rights has had a global impact. In 2006 she joined five other Nobel Peace Prize winners to found the Nobel Women’s Initiative, and she has spoken and published internationally in furtherance of her human rights work. The actions against Ms. Ebadi during the past week demonstrate a targeted effort not only to obstruct directly the work of the country’s most influential human rights defender, but also to intimidate Iranian human rights activists as a group.


We, the undersigned women’s rights activists and organizations, strongly condemn the acts of harassment against Ms. Ebadi and are gravely concerned for her personal security and the protection of the rights of women activists in the country.

For more details on the closing of the Defenders of Human Rights Center and the raid on Ms. Ebadi’s office, visit For updates in Persian, visit


To join us in voicing your support for Ms. Ebadi and Iranian women’s rights activists by adding your signature to this statement, please send an e-mail to


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