February 4, 2009

Iranian Nobel laureate calls for rebuilding Iran-US relationship

ImageWashington DC – On Monday, Iranian Nobel peace prize laureate and human rights defender Shirin Ebadi spoke before the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace , declaring “There is history of friendship between Iranian people and American people.  I do not think [there] are differences that cannot be resolved.  I think what exists are misunderstandings.” Her address focused on the role human rights should play in promoting Iran-US relations, as well as the current state of human rights in Iran and the role of women in modern Iranian civil society.

Ms. Ebadi emphasized that rebuilding the Iran-US relationship would require dialogue at three levels: between Iranian and American people, presidents and parliaments.  And the dialogue should not solely focus on nuclear issues and the interests of big entities, but should rather include the progress of human rights and interests of all people, she said.

Not all democratic states are just, according to the former jurist, who was removed from her post as a judge after the 1979 Revolution; a true democracy must respect human rights.  “What we want is the application of the international obligations of Iran,” she said, citing several examples of human rights violations that contravene established international norms.  For example, she noted that according to Iranian law, the life of a woman has half the value of a man.    

Ms. Ebadi further rejected the notion that freedom and equality are incompatible with Islam.  She does not recognize human rights principles unique to Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism or Judaism.  Rather, she believes that “human rights are a universal, international standard for living” and advocated for a modern interpretation of Islamic law that is consistent with democracy, gender equality and freedom of religion and speech.

When asked about her view on the potential US military attack on Iran, she vehemently stated that she is opposed to military attack, the threat of a military attack and economic sanctions.  Economic sanctions hurt people, not governments, she said.  Likewise, threats only make oppressive governments stronger because they allow hardliners to use the pretense of national security to justify human rights violations.

Ms. Ebadi has faced many challenges as a human rights leader in Iran. Her organization, the Center for Defense of Human Rights was closed this month by the government. But her dedication has not wavered, and the activity of the organization continues. “The defenders of human rights in Iran face danger all the time,” she stated.

Ebadi will return to Iran on Friday after a speaking tour throughout the United States




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