(CNSNews.com) - Dashing speculation that this year's Nobel Peace Prize would go to the ailing Pope John Paul II, the Nobel Committee Friday announced that an Iranian human rights activist is the winner.
In its announcement, the Nobel Committee described 56-year-old Shirin Ebadi as a lawyer, judge, lecturer, writer and activist, who has focused on the rights of women and children.
"No society deserves to be labeled as civilized unless the rights of women and children are respected," the committee said in its citation.
The committee commended Ebadi for speaking out "clearly and strongly in her country, Iran, far beyond its borders. She has stood up as a sound professional, a courageous person, and has never heeded the threat to her own safety," the citation said.
"In an era of violence, she has consistently supported no violence. It's fundamental to her view that the supreme political power in the community must be built on democratic elections. She favors enlightenment and dialogue as the best power for changing attitudes and resolving conflict."
The committee noted that Ebadi, a Muslim, sees no conflict between Islam and fundamental human rights. The citation said she believes that different religions should focus on their shared values.
"We hope that the people of Iran will feel joyous that for the first time in history one of their citizens has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize," the Nobel Committee said.
"And 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."
Ebadi was in Paris when the Nobel Committee made its announcement.
"I'm very glad and proud," Reuters quoted her as telling Norway's NRK public television in a phone call. "It's very good for me, very good for human rights in Iran, good for democracy in Iran and especially [for] children's rights in Iran."
This year's Nobel Peace Prize is worth the equivalent of $1.3 million U.S. dollars.