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Virginia Connection: Ebadi Comes to McLean

As a board member of the National Iranian-American Council, McLean resident Forough Yazdani is no stranger to getting the Iranian-American community involved in civic processes. But she said it was a special honor to host Nobel Peace Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi at her home Sunday.

As a board member of the National Iranian-American Council, McLean resident Forough Yazdani is no stranger to getting the Iranian-American community involved in civic processes. But she said it was a special honor to host Nobel Peace Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi at her home Sunday.

"She’s just an amazing woman. We live in a free country, but for her to do what she did in her country is amazing," Yazdani said. "Her courage and bravery is more than I could ever imagine."

Ebadi is a former judge and lawyer from Iran, and one of the founders of the Defenders of Human Rights Center. She became the first woman to preside over a legislative court in 1975, but after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, she was demoted to a clerk in the court after conservative clerics declared Islamic law forbids female judges.

She has practiced private law since 1992 and has taught and lectured at universities across the world. She has also published more than 70 articles and 13 books.

In October 2003 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts defending human rights, particularly those of women and children. She was the first Muslim woman to receive the award, and fifth Muslim to receive the Nobel Prize in any field.

She spoke to several dozen local residents, mostly of Iranian descent, about the importance of getting information out to the world at large, despite the efforts of government and other leaders.

"Even a few months ago, [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad said ‘do not write about news that creates concerns.’ What could news that creates concerns mean? I’m sure bad news, not good news," she said through a translator. "When we bring information to the world, we sensitize the international community [to our situation]. In democratic countries where people elect their government, the people can have an impact."

She said that the act of reporting information can have big impact, saying, "if you cannot eliminate injustice, at least tell everyone about it."

Ebadi also urged the Iranian-Americans in the audience to support others of similar descent in their community, whether socially, in business or in the political arena. She pleaded with them to instill cultural pride in their children, asking them to speak Farsi to them at home as well as English.

"We are in the era of globalization, our borders don’t matter as much as our culture, it’s our culture that keeps us alive," Ebadi said.

Many audience members were struck by her thoughts on the importance of information.

"I thought she had a great speech, it was very positive and promising," said Fari Nazemi of Fairfax Station. "She really stressed the importance of speaking out more, to let people around the world know what is going on."

Ebadi’s words also struck home with some of the younger members of the audience. Ariana Gueranmayeh, 10, was visiting from Richmond.

"She made some really good points," Gueranmayeh said. "I thought it was interesting when she talked about the government controlling the internet, and how some people wanted to get to the internet without government control."

Trita Parsi, the president of the NIAC, said when the organization was offered a chance to host Ebadi, they were more than willing.

"She reached out to us about doing an event like this, and of course we jumped at the chance," he said. "The Iranian community is increasingly focusing on human rights, and we want people to know that we are opposed to the bloodshed and ready to end the violence. As we spread information about the realities in Iran, other governments will pay attention."

 

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