Bookmark and Share

A get-together in Tehran to honor Shirin Ebadi, Iran's Nobel Peace Prize winner

10/27/03 By Syama Sayyah, Tehran

The doorbell rang just before 6 AM when Baba came to clean the yard. Mild wind in the past few days had covered the place with lots of yellow autumn leaves. At 7:30 Forough Khanoum came, my helping angel. About 9 AM the chairs that we had rented for a day were brought over, along with estekans (teacups) and large electric samovars. We started to clean the garage where our guests would sit and stand. We were having a big tea party that afternoon; Shirin Khanoum was to come over for tea!

Markaz Farhangi Zanann (Women Cultural Centre) had organized an informal get-together and invited representatives from women groups, Iranian NGOs, those who are involved in child and women welfare, environmentalist, prominent figures in art and media as well as known and supportive individual women. My mum was my special guest that day, as the gathering was happening in our house. We had decided to limit the number, due to shortage of space, to about 100 plus all of us which would come to 115 people. We all knew about Shirin's accident. She had twisted her ankle and broken a toe a few nights before when stepping out of her car. Nobody could find Shirin Khanoum the day or the night before, so we were not sure what would happen, and I was beginning to panic. Finally, on that morning she was called us and confirmed that she would arrive about 3:30 PM after her X-Ray session at the hospital.

The buzz was getting louder as the time passed. A few friends from MFZ came to help along and we arranged and rearranged the chairs and tables several times until we all were generally happy with the result! We were about to grab a bite to eat for lunch when shirinies (small fruit pastries) that one of the women had ordered arrived. From then on the buzz was getting stronger by the minutes. Ladies started to come sooner than the agreed time of 2:30 PM. By 3:30, when our Lady arrived, in a taxi, there were about 140 people around! We had lawyers, newspaper reporters, magazine editors, writers, filmmakers, university lecturers, members of parliament, painters, homemakers, businesspersons, teachers, engineers, architects, and students, old and young. Women from Tehran and even one from outside Tehran, as far away as Sanadaj, were present there.

Shirin Khanoum came with a big smile on her face to a roaring welcome. She used a cane to help her walk, she was to stay for a short time but then she stayed nearly two hours. Half way through, I could see from her face that she was in great pain, but she bore it with grace, and stayed on long after her taxi came to pick her up. She stood up and apologized to a lady who had gone to her home to visit her and give her flowers, but at that time Shirin had taken some pain killers for her foot and had been asleep. Her humility was so touching and her directness, kindness and gentleness with firm resolve came across over and over again. She is indeed one of us and she is with us. One asked her what this prize has done to her. She said that I am just the same Shirin and do my job: "man haman shirin ghabli hastam va karam ra mikounam"

Many of the women present made very short speeches, cutting the congratulatory notes, stating what their organization does or needs, or how our lady of the hour can help or offer of help was extended. Many others asked short questions or placed small requests including several invitations to speak inside and outside Iran for Iranian or International organizations and groups. One of the ladies implored her to buy a place with part of her prize, such that it becomes the permanent home for NGOs, so that they could meet regularly without so much hassle. Another lady mentioned that women are more likely to cross their bridge of differences, and despite of their differences they work together for the higher and better values they share. The applause lasted a good few minutes. Another woman said that it is a pity that so many newspapers and individuals get stuck in words and statements of who said this and that, instead of doing something more positive and constructive. Finding faults with others is easy; what do they have to show for themselves in terms of actual and useful achievements.

Shirin Khanoum, despite her discomfort, made a short speech in which she repeated that this prize is not hers only but that of all Iranian women and NGOs that have worked with her. She asked everybody to carry on with their good work and activities. She went on to say that she reads several newspapers everyday and she was sure that readers must be bored with her name, where she went and what she said or did not say, all the time. She said that we must carry on doing what we believe in and do it continuously. She said it is best if we refrain from aiming for a Damavand [1] over night, but rather work hard and gradually towards an ideal peak, as our goal.

There was such a positive energy around which was breathtaking. One important point that women raised was that it was very difficult to get to here, but now we know that it can be done! The glass ceiling has been broken and taboo is gone. The most significant impact of Ms. Ebadi Nobel prize is the fact this will inspire and encourage many other Iranian women, young and old, to carry on to do their good work with enthusiasm and open heart. These will undoubtedly result in a huge and massive directed enthusiastic actions and creation of new goals and visions for more profound future by all and for all.

Everybody was helping; everybody felt she belonged there; many were not able to come due to previous engagements or illness, but sent messages and flowers, and their spirit was there. At times, I felt that this wonderful energy was spreading around our street like little wild happy white flowers, catching everybody's heart and making them happy and hopeful. I can only hope that it gets to the city and the country eventually. I am certain that when people do something together, with joy and positive thinking and open hearts, the results can only be good, positive and effective. I hope that day will come soon, but in the meantime, we can each, in our little insignificant yet important way, carry on the good work that we do. Our energies meet, even if we are oceans apart, only if our hearts reach out joyfully and clearly to all that is good and not just to what we might find good!

1. Damavand, located in North of Tehran, is the highest mountain peak in Iran.

© Copyright 2003 (All Rights Reserved)