Iran News ...


12/17/03

Iran: The Significance of Shirin Ebadi's Nobel Peace Prize

By Syma Sayyah, Tehran

Some people have been writing to me and informing me of their disappointment with Ms. Ebadi's acceptance speech in Oslo last Wednesday. To be quite honest, I did not hold high hopes to begin with. However, I must admit that I only glanced at her speech, as my mum has been in hospital for the past couple of weeks so I am either too busy or too tired to read long speeches, which are there to impress! What!

To be quite honest, when the news of the Nobel Peace prize broke one Friday at lunch time, I was truly pleased that an Iranian, and a woman for that matter, had won it. Mehrangiz Karr, who recently wrote a piece on Shirin in Washington Post congratulating Ms. Ebadi, in my opinion, should have been the co-winner of this prize. To prove how badly I thought this, I must admit that I made a big blunder by calling Shirin Ebadi Ms. Karr twice when we met. This happened when I had gone with some friend to visit Ms. Ebadi and congratulate her. I guess it was a simple Freudian slip of tongue.

I believe that Ms Ebadi would not have won the prize if she were not a woman or a Muslim. The fact that she is Iranian was not that significant, in hindsight. Once the heat of the moment passed, I had time to sit and think things over. The fact that she addresses herself as a Muslim so often is because she is. For god's sake she may fast during the month of Ramadan, and like majority of Iranians, she probably has her own personal code of religious morals and dos and don'ts. I believe she would have followed a mild ritual of some sort even if she were a Zoroastrian, Christian, or what not.

I feel sorry for her, because she has a huge task and bigger responsibility on her shoulder than many of us could bear. On the one hand, she has won one of the most prestigious awards in the world. On the other hand, because of her unusual position in winning this prize, she has become a source of aspiration not only to women or Iranians, who hang all their frustrated hopes and idealism on her and her new internationalized position and watch with great care what she does or says, but also to the many Muslims in the world. This is indeed is a huge burden that I am simply pleased not to have to worry about.

Ebadi has said that she will carry on doing the sort of work she has done before. She has shaken hands with men in public, and she has not worn scarf outside Iran in front of cameras. Although these seem little and very insignificant to many outsiders, she has done what she is good at, that is bringing change little by little. She comes from a generation that prefers this approach to drastic, radical change. Besides, this goes with her character as well, I guess. If we are disappointed in what she is or what she has done, or even what she might get up to, it is simply because we made a mistake in our original assessment.

Ms. Ebadi first and foremost is a human being and should be allowed to live her life in the ways that she sees best, not the ones that we set and aspire for her. May her path meet ours along the way.

... Payvand News - 12/17/03 ... --



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