"After the revolution, we were informed that women could not be judges anymore and women judges were demoted to administrative levels," she said in an interview Tuesday. "I became the clerk of the court in which I had been the judge. Of course, I couldn't tolerate that and I got early retirement."
But retirement wasn't her style.
Ebadi became a human rights activist and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003. Now she has a new goal: She's teamed up with other women laureates to launch a campaign to promote a peaceful solution to U.S.-Iran tensions.
Jody Williams, an American who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her work to outlaw the use of land mines, has joined Ebadi in spearheading the initiative.
"Shirin and I feel a particular responsibility to let the world know that the people of Iran and the United States do not support violent resolution of this crisis," Williams said.
"No more military attacks. No more war," they said in a written statement. "We demand a nonviolent world where human security is the basis of our common global security."
Ebadi and Williams believe they can have an impact. Thirteen years after Ebadi began advocating for women's rights in Iran, the government changed course and decided that Islam did not forbid women to be judges.
"Now we have a few women judges," she said, speaking through an interpreter. "When women unite, you can see the results. This is our philosophy."
Though they are still working out details of their campaign, Williams said they want to use the prestige of the Nobel Peace Prize to advance a new message.
"We want to redefine peace as not just the absence of armed conflict," Williams said. "If there is not equal and social justice in the world, it is not peace."