One was Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Iran’s first women judge and the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate for 2003 for her courageous work supporting democracy and human rights in her country. Her human rights work began with the Islamic Revolution in 1979 when she was dismissed as a judge because she was a woman. In 1992 she began a private law practice in Iran that concentrated on taking child abuse cases and representing political dissidents, members of the minority Bahai faith, journalists and families murdered by the government. In 2009 threats against her and her family forced them to leave Iran. Dr. Ebadi received Advocates’ highest honor, the Don and Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Award.
Dr. Ebadi was introduced to the audience by the other “Shaker,” Cheryl Thomas, Advocates’ own Director of Women’s Human Rights. Newsweek praised Thomas for her work with local partners around the world writing laws that better protect women and girls. For the last two decades, she has improved legal protections for women suffering from domestic abuse and other forms of violence in places as diverse as Central and Eastern Europe, South Asia, the former Soviet Union, and Morocco. Thomas is an attorney and the founder in 1993 of the Women’s Human Rights program at Advocates. She previously has been honored as a Changemaker by Minnesota Women’s Press and as one of 15 experts from around the world to participate in a United Nations Expert Group Meeting on good practices in legislation on violence against women.
At the dinner Advocates also granted a Special Recognition Award to the Islamic Resource Group that has been a strong and positive voice for Muslims in Minnesota. The Group seeks to eliminate stereotyping of Muslims through educational programs. Its new video “Muslims in Minnesota” was shown. It documents a Muslim presence in Minnesota going back to the 1880s. Now there are an estimated 140,000 Muslims in the State. They are making an ever growing impact on the state and on the nation–from the first Muslim Congressman to the largest Somali Muslim population in the U.S.
Founded in 1983, Advocates helps individuals fully realize their human rights in the United States and around the world. Its innovative programming has touched the lives of refugees and immigrants, women, ethnic and religious minorities, children, and other marginalized communities whose rights are at risk. The Advocates strengthens accountability mechanisms, raises awareness, and fosters tolerance.
 Newsweek, 150 Women Who Shake the World (Mar. 14, 2011).
 AHR Press Release, The Advocates’ Cheryl Thomas Named One of 150 “Women Who Shake the World” by Newsweek (Mar/ 9, 2011), http://www.theadvocatesforhumanrights.org/uploads/cheryl_thomas_-_150_women_who_shake_the_world_3-9-11.pdf.