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Iran's Nobel winner doesn't make the news at home

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Shirin Ebadi accepted her Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo Wednesday to standing ovations and blanket media coverage of her mission to improve democracy and human rights in Iran.

But at home, Iran's state-run Channel One ranked Ms. Ebadi's achievement twelfth in the lineup - after a Taiwan earthquake and a trade fair.

The now-famous defense lawyer - the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel - has been heralded by some as a hero who can energize Iran's embattled reform movement. But she has been largely ignored or threatened by hardliners who see her global prestige and continued push for human rights in Iran as a further threat to their rule.

The thin media coverage points to the difficulties Ebadi faces as her profile rises in Iran's relentless, rough-and-tumble political battlefield.

"This prize has put Ebadi on the front line in Iran," says an Iranian analyst who asked not to be named. "She is stuck between those who advocate nonviolence and those who ... use violence - between [those] who call for gradual change and those who want it now."

Ebadi was Iran's first woman judge before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. She has often taken on prickly cases - including one in 2000 that led to her imprisonment for collecting sensitive video evidence. Most recently, she has joined the case of a woman photojournalist with dual Iranian-Canadian citizenship who was killed during interrogation in July. Yet many Iranians never knew Ebadi's name before she won the Nobel.

Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi, when asked about the Nobel, told parliament: "It's a source of pride for Iran that an Iranian is given the Nobel Peace Prize."

But the reform newspaper Shargh - aware that more than 100 reform publications have been shut down in recent years - ran a Page 1 photo of the ceremony, but showed only a close-up of Ebadi's hands as she received the Nobel diploma.


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