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 Friday 12 December 2003 Aftenposten Nettutgaven Updated: 09 Dec, 14:17 (GMT+1) 
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Peace prize winner in Oslo spotlight

Shirin Ebadi, the human rights activist from Iran who won this year's Nobel Peace Prize, arrived in Oslo Monday evening. She'll be in the spotlight during Wednesday's annual awards ceremony in the Oslo City Hall.

Shirin Ebadi at the Nobel Institute on Tuesday.
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  • Ebadi, wearing a big smile and a warm winter coat, left her head uncovered as she stepped into the cold at Oslo's airport at Gardermoen. She earlier had confirmed that she also won't wear the traditional (and, in Iran, mandatory) Muslim head covering for women to the Peace Prize awards ceremony.

    "I won't wear the hijab," she told wire service AFP on Sunday. "My actions will always irritate some people, but that's not important."

    Iran's conservative religious leaders were upset when Ebadi appeared with an uncovered head at a press conference in October. Head coverings for women have been mandatory since Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979.

    "I want Iranian women themselves to be able to choose whether they want to use the Hijab," Ebadi said.

    Ebadi, like other Nobel Peace Prize winners, is staying at Oslo's Grand Hotel. After Wednesday's midday awards ceremony, she'll likely make an appearance on her hotel balcony to wave to hundreds of Norwegians who traditionally stand outside the hotel holding flaming torches in honor of the prize winner.

    Ebadi won the prize on the basis of her work promoting human rights and democracy in Iran, especially on behalf of women and children. Her award has received mixed reviews in Iran, where reform-minded leaders view it as a boost to the democratic process while conservative religious leaders see it as a threat to their power.

    In Norway, non-religious Iranian women planned to protest Ebadi's award, claiming that while they hail her work for women and children, she shouldn't try to seek equality in Iran using the Koran as a basis.

    Ebadi was busy Tuesday with press interviews, meetings at the Nobel Institute, a rehearsal for the televised awards ceremony and a private dinner with members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

    Wednesday's awards ceremony begins at 1pm. The traditional torchlight parade will pass the Grand Hotel just before 7pm, after which Ebadi will be guest of honor at the annual Nobel banquet. A concert will be held in her honor Thursday evening, featuring various musical stars and hosted by Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

    Aftenposten English Web Desk
    Nina Berglund

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