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Shirin Ebadi speaks at University of Maryland Comcast Center, College Park, MD

By Fariba Amini

May 12, 2004

When compassion fills my heart,
Free from all desires,
I sit quietly like the earth.
My silent cry echoes like thunder
Throughout the universe                 - Rumi

Deeds speak stronger than words

She spoke for one hour, with conviction and determination.  She was direct and talked from the heart on human rights, democracy, the war, religion, and her commitment to build a better society in Iran.  Shirin Ebadi, this year's Nobel Laureate has been touring the United States and
Canada, taking her message of Peace to the world.  The first Iranian woman to receive such an honor, she was greeted by more than 6000 Iranians and Americans at the College Park Campus of the university of Maryland.  Despite some outburst at the beginning of the program by some women (mainly monarchists) who have opposed and criticized her for her references to the compatibility of Islam and democracy, claiming that she is not defiant enough against the Islamic regime, she received a standing ovation from the crowd, and much applause as she spoke on important global issues.

In the introduction by the President of the University, Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., Ebadi was praised for having had an active role in defending the rights of women, children and political prisoners in Iran.  Shirin Ebadi has been the attorney for the serial murder case of 1998 as well as numerous other highly profiled cases that highlighted the use of violence and repression by the Iranian judiciary and security forces of the Islamic Republic. She has been imprisoned and her life threatened as a result of her candor.

Shirin Ebadi said that those who hide behind religion and God and try to use Islam to suppress the voices of freedom will soon have to answer for their action.  The key to heaven is not in the hands of a few who claim to represent God.   It is a convenient way to suppress the freedom seekers and accuse them of not having enough religious conviction.  Authoritarian regimes manage to hide themselves behind such ideas in order to remain in power.  Her statement was clearly an indirect criticism of the present regime in Iran, which has used religion to silence the people.  

Mrs. Ebadi also spoke about Iraq, the war imposed on the Iraqi people and that the ideal of democracy is not handed on a silver platter.  She said, democracy can not be imposed or regimented through violence or bombardments.  It is a natural evolutionary process that must emerge from within each society, and the will of the people are the determining factor. Military intervention cannot bring about democracy. The only way to establish democracy in authoritarian states is to give moral support to democratic institutions.  She has been a major critic of the war in Iraq and of the Bush administration for the way they have handled post war Iraq.  In her words, war and peace have now been globalized, but it is the duty of human rights defenders to admonish the ugly nature of war and struggle for peace in our world. Let us not justify war, as no one comes out the victor.  She said, we can not be indifferent to human suffering in any part of the globe.   Since the world is becoming ever more globalized, we have common interests, which dictate that we, as individuals and nations must work together.

She also mentioned that the East and West have many common grounds and many challenges to overcome.  Islamic states must embrace people's rights and advocate democratic values. They must change the political culture of their respective countries and empower people, accept social realities and address the times and our era.  She said that unlike what is perceived today, Eastern and Western civilizations are not at war, and they do not clash but have many commonalities. They share many values and therefore must find common ground for the benefit of the people who are their respective inhabitants.

Ebadi stated that the main problem we are faced with today is not attributed to the essence of Islam.  Islam in her words is a religion of peace at its core, and we must not condemn this religion, which embraces a vast majority of the world's population with the action of a few violent individuals. Nevertheless, Islam should offer a better way of life for the believers.

Mrs. Ebadi, who received an honorary degree on this day for her contributions to human rights by the President of the University of Maryland, ended her talk by saying that her dream is to see the implementation of the declaration of the UN human rights Charter throughout the world by all nations. Her desire is for the United Nations to take a more active role in implementing human rights and finding the right punishment for the violators.   She said, for every victim of the tragedy of September 11, a school should be built in Afghanistan to educate people so that ignorance can be eradicated in its entirety.

... Payvand News - 5/19/04 ... --

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