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Shirin Ebadi: This is not a prize just for me!

10/12/03 By Goudarz Eghtedari

" This is not a prize just for me, this prize is for all Iranian dissidents, this prize is for all Iranian women, Iranian students, and the whole movement for Human Rights and Democracy" said a shocked Shirin Ebadi after it was announced by Norway Nobel Peace prize committee that she is the winner of 2003 globally recognized award. Competing with Pope John Paul the second, Vaclav Howel, and 162 other fine nominees the committee landed on naming Dr. Shirin Ebadi as this year laureate for Peace. It was early morning hours in Portland; I could not stay in bed anymore with anxiety that I had not felt for long. Turning on my computer and here she was YAHOO's headline; "The Iranian woman wins the Nobel Peace prize." Tears in my eyes I could not hesitate to wake every body up with the news and dance with Persian music coming out of the Internet broadcast of a radio free-Europe station out of Prague.

"As a lawyer, judge, lecturer, writer and activist, she has spoken out clearly and strongly in her country, Iran, and far beyond its borders. She has stood up as a sound professional, a courageous person, and has never heeded the threats to her own safety." reads the Nobel committee citation. Indeed Shirin has been once imprisoned only for defending in the court of the Iranian students after the infamous 1999 uprising at Tehran University campus. As the first Iranian judge she was demoted to a clerk position after the Islamic Revolution, which denies women the right and capability to be a judge. She has used all venues possible including Shari'a law to fight injustices in all walks of Iranian life. She has numerously defended dissidents and reformers in the past 24 years of Islamic theocracy in cases that absolutely no one would dare to step forward. She has resisted life threats, imprisonments and even official refusal to renew her bar license.

Vatican, Lech Waleca and probably some other believers of the Catholicism are bitter of this preference over Pope by the committee. I agree with them that this was probably the last chance for the Pope to be honored as a prophet of Peace, although I hope that pundit lives longer and gets us a chance to thank him for all his efforts and supports of Peace in the world. But allow me to say that selection of Ebadi is not only the recognition of the past, but also a boost for future. Her recognition is a huge victory for democracy and reform movement in Iran, meantime it shows how different the attitude of US administration is from the world body of conscience. Contrary to Neo-conservatives in our administration, the Peace Prize committee has clearly positioned himself with the vibrant community that struggles for advancement of Human rights in Iran and in effect transforming extreme theocratic system to a secular and free society. This will indeed have tremendous effect in the Islamic world. All forces of reason in the Middle East have supported and welcomed this selection despite objection by extremists who cannot accept women as an equal partner in their struggle for peace and justice the same way they could not accept her as a judge two decades ago.

As a person from the region and familiar with many aspects of Middle Eastern life I can assure you that this hand of peace will be shaken more strongly than all the rhetoric that comes out of Washington. Peace Nobel Committee righteously emphasizes on the fact that supporting voices of civility, non-violence and democracy is crucial, especially in a region that is thorn with violence. The news of Shirin (sweet in Persian) recognition is indeed the sweetest news that Iranians have heard for almost two decades. Grass roots preparation for Ebadi's welcoming ceremony is underway in Tehran for next Tuesday night when she flies back from Paris, which ironically promises to be a reminder of Ayatollah Khomeini's Air France flight of 1997. Viva to Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi and all Iranian and Muslim women.

About the author:
Goudarz Eghtedari is a Human Rights and Peace activist, a community organizer, a writer, a commentator, and a radio producer. Goudarz has served on the boards of the Oregon Peace Institute and the Iranian Human Rights Group and is a guest lecturer at Portland State University, where he is a Ph.D. Candidate of Systems Science. He hosts the "Voices of the Middle East" on KBOO 90.7 fm in Portland, OR every second Thursday from 6-7 pm. Program webcasts on For previous interviews go to

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