Sunday, July 03, 2005

Interview with Shirin Ebadi

Highlights from Al-Ahram’s interview with the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Ayatollah Shirin Ebadi, conducted before the second round of the presidential election and the appointment of Ahmadinejad to that office.

She is asked, “How do you assess the recent presidential elections in Iran? And who, in your opinion, will win the run-off elections?” She replies that she has no opinion, that she didn’t vote and that the interviewer should ask those who did. The interviewer insists, “But you must have an opinion of your own.” Here is Ebadi’s reply:

“As long as a council [the Guardian Council] or an individual [the spiritual guide] screens the candidates I cannot vote. Freedom cannot be achieved as long as an individual or a council acts as guardian.”

Now the interviewer did not pursue the matter any further. But had he known even a little about the country under discussion he would have seen right through Ebadi’s hypocrisy and duplicity and asked: “Pardon me, but have not the Guardian Council and the Supreme Leader screened the candidates since the establishment of the Islamic Republic? Did they not screen the candidates in the years past when you did vote or were encouraging other people to go to the polls? Did they not screen Mullah Khatami, your two-term president, whom you praised as the person really deserving your Nobel Prize?

Next she is asked, “Is Iran moving towards more democracy and freedom?” Her reply to this question is interesting as well, basically revealing the framework within which she and the reformists define freedom and democracy:

“When the seventh parliamentary elections were held many candidates were banned from running, including 85 who had been members of the sixth parliament. No proof of their ineligibility was given. Why [were they banned]? Because they criticized the conservatives…During the presidential elections some people -- women included -- were not allowed to run. This is a violation of international norms. The human rights situation in Iran is not what one might wish it to be.”

Freedom, democracy, even human rights, then, are defined in terms of one group of Islamic Republicans, including female Islamic Republicans, being eligible to run for and hold some office in the Islamic Republic. This, despite her pretentious “Democracy is a culture, expressed and reflected in laws and state administration,” which follows.

How does Ebadi compare democracy in Iran with democracy in the region? Her reply: “Democracy as it exists in Iran is better than that of neighboring countries.” Either Turkey, arguably Iran’s most important neighbor, is not part of “the region” or, according to Ebadi, “democracy” in Iran under the murderous anti-Iranian Hezbollah is better practiced than in Turkey. Here, as when the subject turns to the condition of Iranian women under the Islamic Republic, note too the complete absence of reference to the pre-1979 era. Although, to give her credit, she does hint that after the Islamic Revolution “some laws changed for the worse.”

Read the rest of the interview yourselves and do not miss: “When I returned to Iran after receiving the prize one million people were waiting to greet me.”

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