Shirin Ebadi, Notable for Defying the Shah, Reveals her Motivation

Shirin Ebadi is a figure of many firsts – the first female judge in Iran and the first Iranian to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003.

Born in 1947, Ebadi flourished due to the modernization and reforms enacted by the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, including granting women the right to vote and actively participate in society. These changes led to significant strides in women’s emancipation in Iran.

In 1975, Ebadi ascended to become the country’s first female judge. Other significant contributors to Iran’s modernization included Dr. Mahnaz Afkhami. In the late 1960s, she founded the Association of University Women and later became the head of the Women’s Organization of Iran, playing a vital role in advocating for women’s rights. By the mid-70s, she was appointed as the Minister of Women’s Affairs.

Dr. Farrokhro Parsa is another notable figure. As a physician, Dr. Parsa became Iran’s first female cabinet minister, serving as the Minister of Education in 1968. She was a key player in advancing women’s rights. Tragically, following the Iranian revolution, she was arrested and executed by the newly established Islamic regime at the age of 58.

Dr. Mehrangiz Dowlatshahi is another name worth mentioning. Besides serving as a long-term member of the Iranian parliament, she was appointed as the Shah’s first female ambassador in 1975 and served as Iran’s ambassador to Denmark until the Islamic revolution of 1979.

Despite all the efforts made by the Shah and the Iranian Imperial Government towards women’s emancipation, many women were active participants in the revolution against the Shah. One of them was Shirin Ebadi. Recently, Ebadi was interviewed by two Iranian youths via social media, where she was asked a provocative question: “During the reign of Pahlavi [the Shah], what did you lack so that you had to instigate a revolution?” Ebadi, after a moment of contemplation, smiled and answered, “Brain. We lacked brain.”

More than 40 years have passed since the Islamic revolution in Iran and the Shah’s death. The propaganda against the Shah, often painting him as a brutal dictator and thief of Iranian wealth, was rampant. However, most of these stories and allegations have been debunked as fabrications and falsehoods. This revelation is likely the reason for the change of heart among many former revolutionaries.