A Living Symbol of Dissident Iran

Published: April 30th 2010
in News » Local

Dr. Shirin Ebadi
Pic: wikimedia commons

Leading human rights lawyer and former judge, Dr. Shirin Ebad, is adamant that the world should focus on pressuring the Iranian government to restore democracy and human rights, rather than intervening militarily or imposing economic sanctions.  “It will only hurt the Iranian people,” she told the admiring audience at the dinner event in her honour organized by the Canadian International Peace Project (CIPP).


At a press conference prior to her speech she urged people to “spread the violations of human rights in Iran so all will know.”


A diminutive woman under five feet tall, with gigantic spirit,  she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her pioneering work in democracy and human rights. She became the first Iranian and Muslim woman to receive the prestigious prize.  The Nobel Award Committee has been quoted as saying, “As a lawyer, judge, lecturer, writer and activist, she has spoken clearly and strongly in her country, Iran, and far beyond.”


In l975, she became Iran’s first female judge, but after the l970 revolution she was dismissed because she was a woman and forced to become a clerk in the same court where she had once presided.


When in l992 she managed to obtain a license to practise law, she took cases defending human rights and freedom of the press.  She also represented the family of Zahra Kazemi, the Canadian-Iranian photo-journalist from Montreal, who was tortured, raped and killed while in an Iranian prison.  The case remains unresolved since officials claim she fell and hurt her head. 


Since last year Ebadi, 62, mother of two daughters,  has lived in exile in the U.K.    A number of her colleagues have been arrested and she was advised to stay away.  Her sister was arrested, her husband’s passport was taken away and her Nobel prize confiscated.  “By staying out of Iran I can bring my voice to more people.  But once the situation gets better, I am going to go back,” she said.  She continues in exile, to represent dissidents in Iran.


Ebadi describes Iran as “a great prison” where even cell phones are tapped.  Freedom of thought as well as speech is restricted.  She gave the example of a famous Iranian film director who was jailed along with his wife and daughter, charged with making a movie in his home against the regime even though no film was ever seen.  “You can’t even think against the government,” she said.


More than 6,000, an official figure, actually many more, have been arrested.  Torture and sexual assault is rampant.  All detainees are accused of conspiring to overturn the regime in a coup d’etat.  They are not allowed a lawyer until the day of the trial.  Then they must take whoever they get.


“Iran is a country rich in natural resources but poverty and inflation are wide-spread.”  Iran is facing a crumbling economy, with a 26 per cent annual inflation rate and an unofficial unemployment rate of nearly 40 percent.  The government is inept and corrupt.   There are a great number of minor age executions. Adult executions are second in the world after China, she reported.


Related articles: (Shirin Ebadi, Iran, Ahmadinejad, nuclear weapons, human rights, dissidents, revolution)

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