Sunday, April 25, 2010

Canadian International Peace Project IN THE NEWS: Activist in exile - Iran's mullahs thought they could silence Shirin Ebadi. They were wrong


CIPP banner.gif


For tickets to "An Evening with Dr. Shirin Ebadi" on Monday, April 26th, 2010, contact Katrina Levasseur at (416) 384-0123 Ext. 2004 or by e-mail at

Activist in exile

Iran's mullahs thought they could silence Shirin Ebadi. They were wrong 


With their brutal crackdown on political dissent, secretive nuclear program and threats to wipe Israel off the map, Iran's rulers seem to fear nothing and no one.


Except Shirin Ebadi.


A 62-year-old lawyer, former judge and mother of two, Mrs. Ebadi is Iran's best-known human rights activist. Her promotion of democracy and rights in the Islamic republic earned her the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003.


It also unnerved Tehran's hardline regime, which banned her autobiography, confiscated her Nobel medal, froze her bank accounts, closed her Human Rights Defenders Centre and forced her into exile last year.


"The government is under the assumption that by doing these they can make me be quiet and silent," Mrs. Ebadi said in an interview yesterday.


It was a faulty assumption.


Mrs. Ebadi, who lives in the U.K., has been traveling non-stop to talk about Iran's abuses and yesterday she arrived in Vancouver to begin a Canadian speaking tour she hopes will draw more attention to the deteriorating human rights situation.


After speaking last night in West Vancouver (the riding of Conservative MP John Weston, who invited her to Canada) she was to address the British Columbia Court of Appeal today before flying to Toronto for a Canadian International Peace Project dinner Monday night.


On Tuesday, she will testify before the Subcommittee on International Human Rights and Speaker Peter Milliken will introduce her to the House of Commons. Later that evening she will address MPs and Senators.


"She has become kind of a symbol in today's Iran, as is also Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma," said the Iranian-Canadian philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo, who teaches political science at the University of Toronto.


The tour coincides with international diplomatic efforts to pressure Iran over its rogue nuclear program, but Mrs. Ebadi said she wants to put human rights issues back into the spotlight.


"Focusing on the nuclear issue has caused the human rights topic to be neglected. The world has forgotten how the Iranian government is dealing with the public," she said. "Human rights is deteriorating and the condition is getting worse and worse day after day."


At the same time, the Green Movement is growing, she said. The opposition movement came together to protest last year's elections that returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power despite widespread evidence of voting fraud.


"This movement is developing like a network and it's getting stronger day after day. Even though the government is confronting it with lots of aggression however, it has had no effect in hurting the growth."


Despite the use of force against the demonstrators -- famously the shooting of Neda Agha-Soltan, whose death last June was captured on video--the reform movement has so far remained peaceful.


"The strategy adopted by the green movement is avoiding violence. The government wants people to use violence, therefore they can justify their violence. Gladly these people are not adopting this strategy and are not violent," she said.


Mrs. Enadi is not without her critics. Six Iranian activists have signed an open letter protesting her visit to Canada on the grounds that she wants to reform the current Islamic system rather than replace it with a secular democracy.


But none can dispute that Mrs. Ebadi is a living symbol of Iranian repression. In 1975, she became Iran's first female judge, but following the 1979 Islamic Revolution she was dismissed because she was a woman. She was forced to become a clerk in the same court where she had once presided.


When she was finally granted a licence to practice law in 1992, she took on tough cases that saw her challenging the state over its restrictions of human rights and press freedoms.


Among her clients were the families of liberal intellectuals murdered by Iranian intelligence agents. She also represented the family of Zahra Kazemi, the Canadian-Iranian photojournalist from Montreal who was tortured, raped and killed while in Iranian custody. Iran claims she fell and hit her head.


In 2003, Mrs. Ebadi became the first Iranian and the first Muslim woman awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In its announcement, the Nobel committee said it hoped the prize would inspire "all those who struggle for human rights and democracy in her country, in the Muslim world, and in all countries where the fight for human rights needs inspiration and support."


But following the honour, Mrs. Ebadi found herself increasingly under pressure from Iranian authorities. She left Iran before last year's elections and has not returned since, although her husband remains in Iran.


"She is someone who has the most thorough knowledge of the human rights situation in Iran, really of anybody, and has become so clearly a symbol of the human rights issues in Iran," said MP Scott Reid, chair of the House of Commons human rights subcommittee.


The subcommittee has been examining Iran for the past year and is finalizing its recommendations. Mrs. Ebadi will be the last witness to testify, which Mr. Reid said is fitting because it was her moving words that prompted the study in the first place.


"Iran is a particularly egregious regime in terms of the violations of human rights," Mr. Reid said, listing women, homosexuals, dissidents, Arabs and Bahais as among those who face persecution. "It's really quite extraordinary."


The prominent reception scheduled for Mrs. Ebadi is sure to rile Tehran, which is already at odds with Ottawa. Just in the past two months, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon has issued statements calling the Iranian regime noxious, irresponsible and a threat to global security, while condemning its "stifling of democracy" and "blatant disregard of basic human rights."


Canada has also accused Iran of running a procurement operation in this county to acquire materials for its nuclear and missile programs. The RCMP arrested an Iranian man in Toronto last year for his alleged involvement.


The Canadian Coalition Against Terror, which represents victims of terrorist attacks, has asked Ottawa to add the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps to Canada's list of banned terrorist organizations.


But Mrs. Ebadi said not all members of the militia are extremists and Canada should not label them all as terrorists. She said she would prefer to see Ottawa blacklist only the extremist commanders.


Seven years after the death of Ms. Kazemi, Mrs. Ebadi sounded apologetic as she explained that the case remained unresolved.


"I'm sad to say that the judicial court did not manage to implement justice. And the file is still sitting on the desk of the head of the court and no decision has been made. Unfortunately, the judicial court system in Iran does not operate independently."


Asked about a headline in The New York Times that called her "the woman the mullahs fear," Mrs. Ebadi was coy. "Those people fear me who don't have a good relationship with human rights," she said. She added that some mullahs have more progressive views on rights.


Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi is apparently not among them. Last week, he blamed promiscuous women for earthquakes. "Unfortunately," Mrs. Ebadi said, "the ruling mullahs right now in the country are those who are against my ideology."


Source: Stewart Bell, National Post  Published: Saturday, April 24, 2010




The Canadian International Peace Project (CIPP) is a novel and unique non-partisan organization that has brought together diverse groups and individuals to work on issues and projects relating to local, national, and international peace, security and development. Through partnership on events and projects, the CIPP fosters mutual respect and sustainable relationships among diverse groups including those in conflict with each other.

 This article is for informational purposes only.

# posted by Steven Plaut : 2:40 PM

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?