Moral Victory of Iranian Women 30 Years After
Correspondent ELAHE AMANI with Lys Anzia – WNN Features
Dr. Shirin Ebadi and other lawyers and activists working with DHRC – Defenders of Human Rights Center Iran welcome the decision to set up a Campaign in defense of the Center and express their gratitude to members of the women’s movement who have provided much support in this difficult time.
WNN Iran Report – 30 years ago, Dr. Shirin Ebadi, the first female judge in Iranian history, was removed from her post when religious authorities in Iran declared that all women serving in the country as judges were “unfit” to perform their duties. She was then immediately demoted to a position as administrative clerk in the courtroom where she once presided. Dr. Ebadi was hit then by the inequities of women’s rights and inequality in Iran, but she did not let that stop her.
During a time marked by political and religious upheaval, Shirin Ebadi found her path and continued her journey by becoming a human rights advocate and attorney serving the public as she helped those who looked to her to provide counsel on the interpretation of rights under Iranian law.
In 2003, Dr. Ebadi received the Nobel Peace Prize, “for her efforts for democracy and human rights” as she “focused on the struggle for the rights of women and children.” Almost six years later, in Feb 2009, the struggle to defend human rights in Iran continues.
“The issues facing us today are increasingly complex. A certain number of states have ignored the rules of international law to impose relations dominated by force. Domestically, repression is increasingly often gaining the upper hand over the respect of rights and freedoms,” said Ebadi to human rights defenders, FIDH – International Federation of Human Rights.
Over the past years, Ebadi has been the target of threats, arrests and assassination attempts, but she is not slowing down. She keeps moving forward. Today she continues, in spite of recent reversals, to represent victims of human rights injustice and discrimination in Iran.
“I realize that putting so much store in political dialogue seems overly optimistic, given the gulf that exists between the West’s expectations of Iran and the Iranian system’s inclination to compromise. I focus on the political process not because I imagine we will refashion a new relationship around the negotiating table anytime soon but because I see no other options ahead. Iran, for its part, must peacefully transition to a democratic government that represents the will of the majority of Iranians,” said Ebadi in her 2006 book, “Iran Awakening.”
Now at the age of 61, her life is in more danger than ever. A sentence for “death” has recently been written by vandals on the walls outside her home and office in Tehran and pinned on her door. But the fearless Iranian human rights lawyer has a deep conviction that, “When you believe in the correctness of your work, there is no reason to be afraid of anything.”
Iranian Nobel Peace Prize 2003 winner Shirin Ebadi (center) attends the Tolerance Prize award ceremony before she receives her award beside Friedemann Greiner (left) President of the Evangelische Akademie Tutzing, and Udo Steinbach, President of the Orient-Institut Hamburg, at Evangelische Akademie on Oct 1, 2008 in Tutzing, Germany. Photo image: Johannes Simon/Getty Images Europe
Recently, only a few weeks following an invitation to give a series of public lectures for the University of Malaya, the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs suddenly cancelled Ebadi’s speaking tour. “Dr. Shirin Ebadi is a strong critic (of the Iran government),” said the Ministry. “Her public speaking engagements in Malaysia would cause a disruption of the good relations between the governments of Malaysia and Iran, especially in the field of education,” continued the Ministry’s office communication.
“On the brink of the 10th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights Defenders and the 60th anniversary year of the International Declaration of Human Rights, it is ironic that a 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate has been censured in Malaysia.
As Ebadi’s censured visit came to a close, on Sunday Dec 21, 2008, plain-clothes and uniformed police and security officials raided the offices of the DHRC – Defenders of Human Rights Center. DHRC staff speculates that the closure was in part pushed through on the heels of a Oct 2008 negative report on Iran’s human rights by UN General Assembly.
Now the subsequent complete closure of the DHRC building in Tehran has come as a very hard blow to human rights defenders worldwide. DHRC cases defending women rights activists, prisoners of conscience, journalists and students in Iran have been compromised, along with DHRC documentation of families of prisoners with reports of human rights abuse. In addition to this, the DHRC committee of investigation on fair elections has now been forced to completely halt its work for the upcoming April elections in Iran.
“The closure of DHRC is not just an attack on Shirin Ebadi and her Iranian colleagues, but on the entire international human rights community of which she is an influential and important member,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.
As global human rights are also put to the test in the US with new administration policies in the closing of Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp along with government interests in the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, the record of human rights abuse by the US is also in the global public eye. Speaking up for the greater good is ringing strongly throughout global communities.
“Thirty years on, some of the worst abuses of the Shah’s time – torture, executions and the suppression of legitimate dissent – are still being replicated in Iran,” said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program, “despite the efforts of the country’s growing and valiant community of human rights defenders.”
“It is high time that Iranian authorities lived up to their obligations under international human rights law,” added Smart.
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