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October 12, 2003

Our Heroine: Shirin Ebadi
Guest Author: Bahman Kalbasi

shirin_ebadi.jpg The news was stunning: Shirin Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize. She would surely be among the top 3 women, if those who are following the news and developments in Iran were to name the most active, brave, straightforward and dedicated females of the last 25 years of political and social activism in Iran.

She was the first woman to become a judge in the history of Iranian judiciary system in the era of Pahlavi dictatorship, but she was sadly removed after the 1979 revolution when the backward interpretation of Islam that was implemented did not allow women to serve as judges. Fortunately she didn't stop. Not only she continued her precious career fighting for justice as a brave female attorney within an extremely sexist system, she also started writing articles and publishing books to advocate democracy, freedom and human rights in general, and women and children rights in particular.

She became better-known to the general public when she got involved in sensitive political cases.

Defending prominent and outspoken intellectuals, who were prosecuted only because of their beliefs and their courage to criticize the corruption and tyranny of the powerful fundamentalist clerics, made her an exceptional figure. Many still remember her defence of the famous author, Abbas Maroofi, back in 1995. We won't forget the fall of 1998 when she became the first lawyer to stand by the family of late Mr. And Mrs. Forouhar—brutally murdered by the agents of the intelligent service—and represented their case. In this connection, she is a member of Committee for the Defense of Rights of the Victims of the Serial Murders.

We, as student victims of the savage attacks on Tehran University dormitory by fanatic vigilantes supported by the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic, can't forget her courage when in summer of 1999 she was one of the two lawyers who defended us in the partial courts till the end. She was sent to jail herself in the process of presenting the evidence, accused of producing a video-tape of Amir Farshad Ebrahimi, a former member of the paramilitary vigiantes, who disclosed insider information on the workings of the group and the events surrounding the attacks. And there were times when thugs-for-hire stopped her in the dark and threatened her to death.

Her doctorine of peaceful, non-violent and legal fight has already become a principle for Iranians in their struggle for a true democracy. She stood for Iranian women who have been deprived of not only their right to speak their mind and elect their government but also of their basic right to freedom of dress and their fundamental right to be protected by the state against often assaults by the men in their family and to be treated equally when it comes to disputes with their husbands, sons and fathers. She is among the founders of the Society for Protecting the Rights of the Child, an organization in support of children rights, as well as the Iranian Association in Support of Human Rights, which provides free legal aids to the victims of human rights abuse.

The Nobel Peace Prize for an Iranian woman on the one hand brings honor and pride to all Iranians—women, men, Muslim, Zoroastrian, Jew, Christian, Bahai, Kurdish, Azari, Persian—especially those who care or actively participate in the dangerous process of achieving democracy in Iran, and on the other hand has a very strong message to two prominent groups who are opposed to such a process.

First of all are the hard-line and anti-reform rulers of Iran, who are in a very embarrassing and politically difficult situation. After all one of the thousands that they sent to jail and oppressed in the last 25 years and especially in the past 6 years, is now a world wide figure. They must understand that there is a limit to how much they can crack down a nation, that wants reforms. The international community no longer ignores dictators. A message is also being sent to the neo-conservatives in Washington and their Iranian monarchist allies who are counting the minuets to go back to Iran the way Ahmad Chalabi went back to Iraq. I think the message is really clear: Iranian people are able to have their voice heard in the international community, they need proper international help, similar to the type of political aid that South Africans got with the leadership of Nelson Mandela, but they strongly reject any attempt to repeat Iraq's experience in Iran. The Prize shows that a great potential exists within Iran. Thousands of honest and well-educated activists bravely put their safety in danger and sacrifice the calm of their daily life by helping their fellow citizens in a broad campaign against the violation of human rights with whatever expertise they have. We do not need alternatives such as the LA-based oppositions; we have chosen the peaceful path of reform and in this long-term solution, we are honored to have heroines like Shirin Ebadi.

External Links:
Society for Protecting the Rights of the Child: SPRC web site, still under construction
Deutche Welle Persian: an Iranian Association in Support of Human Rights recent statement in Persian
Payvand: Shirin Ebadi: Evin prision is not that bad
The Christian Science Monitor: A tough place to be a woman

Internal Link:
FToI: Shirin's Day

Bahman Kalbasi studied Physics at Isfahan University of Technology. He was arrested after 18 Tir [July 9th, 1999 student protests] and jailed for two months. In the trials that followed he was given a five-year suspended prison sentence for "violating national security." He came to Canada on immigration status afterwards and currently studies political science at York University in Toronto.
soahyant at October 12, 2003 05:07 PM [permalink]:

Bahman, Thank you for your great contribution,

The only reservation that I have is your comparison with South Africa. The Apartheid regime allowed people like Mandela become, and be lawyers despite their opposition. Let's not forget that they were initially prosecuted on the accusation of communism, and all levels they were given representation at their trials. The Supreme Court of South Africa, unfortunately with a great deal of equivocation pursued, the basic tenets of the tradition of Common Law.

There is no judiciary in Iran that can be even compared with a Common-Law based South African and yet divided Supreme Court, between pro-rightist and apartheid judges.

In the end, it took Nelson Mandela and his friends 27 years to be helped and a wide range of reasons led to the success of the cause.

Nonetheless, you might very well be right and I too prefer to passionately hope that despite all these difference and just because it is a more interconnected world today, your desired course of action is realized.

Thank you again for an inspiring contribution!

saoshyant at October 12, 2003 07:42 PM [permalink]:

This is from NewsWeek just published about 12 hours ago:

Mehrad at October 12, 2003 08:40 PM [permalink]:

I don't think "Heroine" is the appropriate word to be used here. The last paragraph in your own post simply shows that the prize, as usual, has not that much to do with what the winner has done. (no doubt she's done a lot...)

A Reader at October 12, 2003 09:01 PM [permalink]:

There is no word to describe my happiness. May these dedicated people live along.

Anonymous at October 12, 2003 11:10 PM [permalink]:

You know, what is ironic, is that after winning the prize, Shirin Ebadi will probably be the greatest admirer of the mullahs, because htanks to them, she won the prize! :)

Hossein at October 13, 2003 12:15 AM [permalink]:

It seems she is admiring them somehow:
Ebadi: Islamic tenets support human rights (IRNA)

yahya at October 13, 2003 01:14 AM [permalink]:

Let's be fair to her. Her claims is that there is an interpretation of Islam which is not in contradiction with human right. Either she really believes this or at the moment she thinks changing the ruling interpretation of Islam is a more achievable goal than claiming human right is not compatible with Islam and confronting Islam.

AIS at October 13, 2003 03:04 AM [permalink]:
As I stated in my congratulation comment, I regard this prize as a great achievement for Iran, her 100 year struggle towards freedom and the people, of the past or present, who have taken part in this struggle. I also believe that choosing Mrs. Ebadi was the right decision by the Nobel commitee, especially since she has shown her sincerity in action all these years and not just in words, facing one of the most barbaric and brutal systems in human history. Having said all that, I find some of her remarks in the interviews she has given since as objectable and I think it is important that our criticisms accompany our praises. First of all she directly opposes the war in Iraq and indirectly the one in Afghanistan. I fail to see how one can ignore the fact that because of those wars, the people of these two countries are now liberated from some of the worse dictatorships the world has seen. Her remark that 'every nation must have the 'right' to free itself by its own hands' sounds absurd to say the least. Does she really think Afghans under Taliban or Iraqis under Saddam could have done this by themselves? And what is the purpose of using a word such as 'rights' for an entire nation who has been denied any opportunity to 'decide' for itself for a long time anyway? What is the use for such archaic cliches in these dire times? Especially as an activist for women's causes I can not understand how she can ignore the freedom of Afghani women and girls as a result of that war. Who can deny that because of WWII the world is a better place now and that democracy was able to survive the 20th Century? If so what made that an exception? What is the difference between Hitler, Mullah Omar, Saddam or Khamenei? Second are her remarks on Islam and the out-worn cliche of how it is completely compatible with democracy etc. I agree with yahya that as an activists inside Iran it is understandable that she does not confront Islam directly. Indeed taken the path she has chosen for her fight and the help she can give in concrete cases inside Iran, that seems to be the correct approach. However that does not justify her supportive remarks. She could very well have said nothing, for or against Islam. Then her silence would have had great impact without giving the regime in Iran the excuses for stymieing her future efforts. More importantly it would have demontrated her honesty and repect for the truth and would have given her future actions extra credence especially in the face of all the poltically 'correct' self censor of the majority of Iranian intellectuals. No doubt such remarks as hers is what many people wish to hear including the Academy itself, but let's not forget that refusing to yield to general consent when it is known to be wrong is one of the greatest virtues of all. Any cursory study of Islam shows that her remarks are simply not true. Furthemore she repeats the 'unequal' war allegation in the case of Israel and the Palestinians. What does this mean? What relevance does that have IF one side is morally justified in its struggle? Is the side with stronger military always reprimandable regardless of the moral stance of the two sides? Whould the allies have won in WWII if they weren't militarily stronger than their foes? Do we want the forces of democracy and progress to be always on the defensive side, losing the battles and invoking our sense of pity? Again she could simply have averted such questions. I can just hope that she exploits the opp ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Babak S at October 13, 2003 04:14 AM [permalink]:

I think Shirin Ebadi is, above all, a lawyer. She cares for laws, and struggles to make them better, more compatible with a base core of human rights. Her main argument for demanding that the status of women should improve in the laws of Iran, for instance, is a legal one: the fact that Iran has signed international treaties that bind the judiciary system to introduce certain changes in the laws. All her contributions, concrete and otherwise, bear a legal feel. So, we shouldn't expect from her what we usually expect from a politician. She is a legal activist.

On her personal motives for her activism, I think she is really an honest muslim. I don't think that is so much important per se, as far as she doesn't take herself as a person with a purley political mission. She is fine with living in a society like that of France, which a non-religious society, but believes in a kind of Islam that respects human rights. She said in her interview that she wishes others go beyond her, and I think we must do so with no hesitation and/or reservation. Washing our thoughts of the contradictions in the way of a reformed interpretation of Islam, is but one example of reaching beyond.

AIS at October 13, 2003 05:18 AM [permalink]:

I agree with your main point, Babak S, that her method of activism is legal in nature. I aluded to that too in my comment when I agreed that in her chosen way of activism, avoiding confrontation head on with Islam is the correct approach. But IMO exactly because of this she should have remained silent and not put this emphasis on the Islamic issue. Some of her remarks were more appropriate for people like Soroush, if they had been awarded this prize (God Forbid!!)
Actually I found the stress the Commitee put on her being a muslim a bit insulting. Either she deserved this prize for her actions and struggles, her bravery and open mindedness or not. (I believe she did).
If so, why should being a moslem be an extra advantage? Wouldn't that imply that they usually don't expect this from those who happen to be born moslems in the first place? This was very unbecoming. Even if this was one of the main factors in their decision (which it obviously was), they shouldn't have expressed it so openly in their formal decleration.
That's why I think she made a mistake by playing into that tune herself.

Niayesh at October 13, 2003 07:54 AM [permalink]:


I believe what you fail to see is the very essence of peace activism, which is, above all, about finding common grounds, understanding and reconciliation. You may win a war, but will never reach peace by excluding and labeling one side of the conflict. Although this may not always work, it is the difference between, say a general, an a peace activist.

This is in fact why most of other peace activists across the world would agree with Shirin on the points that you disagree with. It is inconceivable to find common grounds with the one billion Muslims across the world by calling their religion inhumane. Israel is at fault (from a peace activist's point of view) for excluding the other side for not being Jewish, and America.. well America starts pre-emptive wars which may be noble or right (by some standards) but certainly not peaceful.

To the best of my knowledge, the essence of making peace is that there is no absolute except for the one that leads to peace.

Vahid at October 13, 2003 02:20 PM [permalink]:


I think Niyayesh mentioned a very good point. Also I think you forget that Shirin Ebadi is not from our generation. For you and a lot of people from our generation, being a Muslim might be a taboo. This has to do a lot with what has gone to us during Islamic Republic of Iran. So now we like to abandon the remotest connection to Islam. Our fathers and their generation are also frustrated with the IRI, and they are also suspicious of Mullahs. But they still like to be called Muslim. I do not think Ms Ebadi is lying about being muslim, and I do not think that she is a follower of Dr Soroosh, or others. She represents an Iranian from a generation that grew up in a time that there was a lot of respect for Islam and muslims. I think she understands better than us, that there is a lot of problems with social laws in Islam, for example in case of women. And she herself has been in constant fight against those. But still deep down when you ask her, what are you? She answers; I am (first of all) a Muslim, (but not any Muslim) that believes in an interpretation of Islam, which is consistent with human rights.

yahya at October 13, 2003 03:17 PM [permalink]:

Let me spell out the two different approach for reform of the Islamic laws. One is to say let's change the interpretations of Islamic law to get it closer to human right, and the other approach is to say Islam should not interfere in setting the rules of a country(at least in a direct way). The first approach will create a more tolerable Islamic Republic and the second creates a Secular Republic. There are people who squarely belong to one of these camps. Montazeri, Saanei, Kadivar and Soroush advocate that Islam is flexible enough, and they are looking for better ruler or democratic rulers to set a more progressive interpretation. Akbar Ganji, for example, belongs to the second camp. He declares bluntly in his "Declaration of Republic" that he wants a secular republic. I don't exactly know what camp Shirin Ebadi belongs to.

I think these two groups should work hand in hand.

It is impossible to have a secular democracy in a country that most of people believe in a version of Islam that advocates that Muslims should guide other Muslims in the most intrusive ways, for example harrasing women who do not cover their hair (Using principle of Nahye Az Monkar). This is why the job of the first group is so important. Most Iranians are Muslim in different degrees, and it is important that they adopt a progressive version of Islam.

My frusterating experience is that many of the Islamic clerics who advocate a milder version of Islam do not go very far. For example, Kadivar fiercely defends that Islamic inheritance laws that count daughters as half of sons is in fact fair. If you read Montazeri's fatwas this is the case too. The only thing that has changed is that these people have more progressive justifications for Islamic law. Kadivar offers to prove to you mathematically that women are in fact gaining more. The reason that they can't go very far is Quran. It contains many of the basic Islamic laws. It is very difficult for Islamic clerics to change anything that has been spelled out there. Laws of inheretance and many laws related to women
are things that have been extensively discussed in Quran.

AIS at October 13, 2003 04:08 PM [permalink]:

Dear Niyayesh and Vahid,

Shirin Ebadi is a human rights activist and not a peace activist. As Babak S has pointed out she is not directly active in politics to be a peace activist.
I have nothing against her personal beliefs. What I'm saying is that in my opinion she shouldn't have entered this topic.
For example she could have answered like this:
Basic human rights are universal. There should be no difference wether you're a muslim or not for you to be entitled to human values and rights.
That everyone should be regarded as a human first, and that cultural or religious differences should be no excuse for undermining human values.
Note that this would very much entail the same message, without enetring into "Islam"'s capacity for being democratic or not and similar (philosophical(?)) topics.
BTW, I didn't mean to say she was a follower of Soroush. I just meant those kind of words are more apt for those people with their method of activity.

Dear Yahya,
you made a good point about Quran. That's also part of what I was trying to say in my comments about Kaveh's post on reform. As I said there, Islam can be regarded in a cultural or historic context and its values and vices analyzed. (in that context it sure has many values as well, no doubt) but as a practising Moslem that is not possible, because Quran has made many things specific, both in concrete cases as well as the general worldview.
As far as your point about the majority in Iran being moslem as a justification for the need for reformists within Islam, I can remind you of Turkey that has had a GREAT record in secularism with a lot of success. Turkey's success shows it is possible and IMO this is the right approach.
Actually I think the lack of enough secularism in the pre revolution constitution had a great effect in this revolution being successful. Why should Marja' Taqlids (Grand Ayatollahs who should be imitated in religious practices by the common shittes) be over the law? see, this was the trouble with the old regime.
The reformists can always contribute no doubt, but the political system and the social freedoms should not depend on their efforts or success and failure. There are many reformists and many reforms has taken place in Christianity for example but I argue that that was only possible because there was a huge effort of secularization and of abondoning christianity before that in the Renaissence and the Enlightenment so that the christian reformists failures would have only resulted in christianity lossing more ground and would not have hinder further progress.So the faithful were the ones under pressure fighting for their survival not the other way around. In case of Islam this is even more the case, because Islam is a more rigid and systematized religion than Christianity.

PanteA at October 13, 2003 04:25 PM [permalink]:

Well AIS,
What if she believed sincerely in all her remarks when she said that she thought Islam and human rights were compatible!? I happened to have met her once and talked to her and I really think she believed in whatever remarks she made on her news conference!
I sometimes think that there is not much difference between fanatics in Iran and their secular/atheist counterparts outside of Iran! They both believe whoever does not see things the way they see, is dead wrong! They don’t even give themselves a slight chance to pause and think for a moment that they might not be one hundred percent right!! Perhaps other people have a point when they have objections to their views!
If one day, the Noble prize committee decided to award you with Noble peace prize, then you would have every right to stand up and condemn the Iranian regime for its barbaric behavior, which is unprecedented in the history according to you, and praise the US government for liberating the Iraqis and Afghanis from their tormenters!

Regarding the article when it talks about Ebadi’s “standing up for Iranian women who have been deprived of their rights to speak their mind and their government……” I’d like to ask you if you think that only women in Iran have been deprived of these rights. I don’t think the Iranian government has been harsher on women in particular in order not to allow them to claim their rights!! I don’t like the way that some Iranian men and also sometimes people here in the West try to portray Iranian women as victims!! After all you are not a woman yourself and I don’t think that you are entitled to speak for Iranian women!! They can speak for themselves!
I have lived in both Iran and the US and sometimes that I feel that just because I’m a woman I have to prove myself all the time, especially in my field which is a very male dominated field, and then people make comments that I should not have relationship with Iranian men because they are not open-minded enough to have an ambitious and strong partner! This makes me think why they think they are better themselves as they are not so much different either!

Babak S at October 13, 2003 04:56 PM [permalink]:

I think AIS has every right to openly express his or her opinions even now with no Nobel Prize to give him or her an accolade of praise and attention, just as you do PanteA. Why you try to shut him up, I can't understand.

As far as the status of women and the treatment they receive in the IR is concerned, well, I'm probably not entitled to speak for them, since "I'm a male." But I think I'm entitled to express my opinion on your comment which is quite sexist itself. "[Women] can speak for themselves," you say, and I sincerley hope and wish they can. But if you "don’t think the Iranian government has been harsher on women in particular," I should say that you are just refusing to speak about one very important issue here. So, I ask, what has Ms. Ebadi been doing all along?

And how do you know AIS is a man, not a woman? As far as the Gender Genie can tell, AIS seems to be a woman! (I fed in to the Genie AIS's last comment, changed the male names to some English male names so th eGenie know they are male, and then checked "nonfiction", and submitted ... there it says AIS is a female!) Was there something that I missed?!

Shiraz at October 13, 2003 05:23 PM [permalink]:

Babak S.

I used your link and copy pasted one of my own comments and it got it completely wrong :-) How reliable is it?

PanteA at October 13, 2003 05:28 PM [permalink]:

Dear Babak S,
I'm sorry but I think you didn't read my post carefully! the second part of my comment was about the article which was written by "Bahman Kalbasi" and I believe Bahman is a male name!
In case you can not find it, it starts with "Regarding the article when it talks about Ebadi’s “standing up for Iranian..."! so it was not pointing to AIS's comments!
You can say whatever you think about women's conditions but should not forget that your comments are considered as an "outsider's comments"!!! What if I don't want to live and being looked upon based on the information you give people about me!! don't you think i can talk for myself! Or perhaps you think I (and here I'm talking as a woman) am not mature enough to talk for myself, you better say it before-hand then!! I have no objection about people expressing their ideas, but that's differebt from giving yourself the right to represnt a group of people!

Babak S at October 13, 2003 06:01 PM [permalink]:

Well, I guess I made a mistake: the Genie thinks the AIS's last comment is male, but the previous one is female. The first one in this section is kind of border-line. Parts of it are female, but in its entirety, it's male. You can give the Genie some feed back on how it's done, Shiraz. There is something like a 75% chance of correct answer, I remember. Ther are some links there on how it works, I think. But I guess now it's time I took my poking nose away from such matters... .

PanteA, you are right. I mixed up the last part of your comment with the first part of it. I appologize for that!

Now, I do consider women mature enough to be able to speak for themselves, as "women," don't get me wrong! Here's what I meant: As a group of people, who I believe have been subject to a lot of social mistreatment, many of them are misinformed about their rights. The situation is similar to that of the Iranian people themselves: they know little about their rights, civil and otherwise. So, there is a dilemma: how could a people who know little about their rights retain and secure their rights? This is not a paradox, however. It's very much like solving a math problem. Many a time, not only one does not know the answer, but one doesn't kow how to find the answer. Nevertheless, we do solve math problems, through some process not even known to ourselves. We engage in solving a math problem and we eventualy do so. It's not a question of maturity, but activity. I do believe that no injustice could be eliminated if the people who are subject to that injustice take action, and "speak for themselves" so to speak.

I don 't consider myself a representative of half of humanity, i.e. women. I have not been given any such right. But I am entitled to express my views on this issue, aren't I? I do not speak for women, but for myself on women's issues. I'm not even speaking about those issues, damn it! What I said was as simple as this: there exists an issue related to the situation of women in the Islamic Republic! I hope we agree on that, at least.

I'm not in a position to tell you, as a woman, or anyone else for that matter how to live. But as a member of "our" society, I have a right to say I don't like to see women be subject to mistreatment and injustice, at least because it affects my family and my freinds. To give you an example, by the same token, we all have the right to demand we don't want to see, say, religious minorites be treated unjustly, even though we might not be a member of a religious minority ourselves.

Rouzbeh at October 13, 2003 06:10 PM [permalink]:

Dear Bahman

I enjoyed your post very much. I agree with its content so much that I think if I wanted to write a piece about the issue I would write pretty much the same stuff.

About the current situation I enjoy the fact that after years of inaction by Khatami and his associates, seems like the "non-gevernmental" reformists now have the upper hand.
I am glad that Ms. Ebadi is so brave and fearless that she can now use her newly-found power to a degree that Khatami never dared to.

M.S at October 13, 2003 11:11 PM [permalink]:

I found some of analogies in your comment very akward.

1. Can you tell me how you managed to compare WWII with war on Iraq.? It seems you forget that it was Hitler who first attacked and invaded other countries. Yes, I know Saddam attacked two of its neighbours but not this time, and let me tell you something those who attacked him this time supported him fully with all the conventional and non-conventional weapons they had at the time.
The following part of your argument was really "brilliant":

...Who can deny that because of WWII the world is a better place now and that democracy was able to survive the 20th Century? ...

2. How do you know that Iraqi people are better off now? Yes, living under a brutal regime like Taleban and Saddam is horrible but this is not a legitimate excuse for invading another country. Yes, you are right Iraqi people could not get rid of Saddam themselves? But before it was more feasible for them to get rid of Saddam temselves than asking the strongest military of the world now " Please leave our country."

3. Yes, being weak does not mean that one side of a struggle is morally justfied and for the same reason being strong does not mean you have every right to do whatever you want to others in whatever way you choose.
Can I ask you what countries are "the forces of democracy and progress" in the following sentence right at the end of your argumene about Israel-palestine conflict?
Do we want the forces of democracy and progress to be always on the defensive side, losing the battles and invoking our sense of pity?

AIS at October 14, 2003 12:47 AM [permalink]:

Wow! Babak S has defended my right to speak my opinion. I have to say, I am not used to such reactions. sure haven't had them for a VERY LONG time. My thanks to you ,sir.
BTW, for you and anybody else who might be ineterested I am male and under 30 years of age. The reason I don't put my name here is because I'm afraid. (Besides being a chicken I have many other weaknesses of which I am not proud)...O and I tested that gender genie thing. It gave male in all my cases if you chose 'blog entry'. :(
(I was hoping otherwise, since Iranian women are in general more mature than the men)

To PantheA,
she can have any opinion she likes, I just wish she stops sharing the wrong ones with the world.
And what she said about islam is wrong. (yawn) I'm too sleepy still to start quoting the Quran again....

To M.S.
1- If idiots like Chamberlain hadn't waited that long, so many people needn't have been killed. Are you proposing the same in our times?
2- Those Iraqis with the smallest amount of brain and slightest tinge of sense should be begging the US to stay in Iraq.

I just found some other out of line remarks by Ebadi:( during an interview with Italy's independent television channel La 7)

"Iran doesn't have the atomic bomb"
How the hell does she know?!! and why does she talk about such irrelevant issues all of a sudden? Can't she stay in her own field? Got carreid away per chance?

Here is another line:
"People who believe in religion are against all forms of violence and terrorism. You have heard it in the message of the pope: where there's God, there's love"

She evidently hasn't read the Quran closely enough, and couldn't she find anyone BETTER than that Pope to praise?!

I'm afraid I'll be wanting to take all my partyings back soon. :(

AIS at October 14, 2003 01:00 AM [permalink]:

Here is the worse of all:

""Wearing headscarves is obligatory in my country, I respect the laws of my country so I wear it...As for the headscarf as an Islamic symbol of submission, I can tell you that many veiled women feel stronger than men in Iran"

Oh, I want to take my partyings back now. :'(

M.S. at October 14, 2003 01:13 AM [permalink]:

Thanks alot for your enlightening responce. So let's begin WW3 to win yet another peace and spread "democracy and progress" all over the world.

AIS at October 14, 2003 02:02 AM [permalink]:

If they hadacted sooner back then, it wouldn't have come to a world war. EVer thought of that?

PanteA at October 14, 2003 11:41 AM [permalink]:

[editors: comment was removed based on the rule 2 and the rule 1 of comment policy]

M.S. at October 14, 2003 12:59 PM [permalink]:

Ever thought that almost all wars in the history of man kind our based on the same logic that you have: "If we attack sooner then ..."?

PanteA at October 14, 2003 06:43 PM [permalink]:

Dear editors,
Could you please explain to me what the rules 1 and 2 are? I simply asked a question and there was no use of obscene language in my post! I don’t think you could just edit people’s posts (which in that case you shouldn’t be calling your site “Free Thoughts etc”) unless someone complains to you directly about a certain post! I did not ask the question to offend anyone! I thought it might actually help us to understand each other’s point of view better and realize that people from different backgrounds might see things differently and then perhaps at some point it will help us to find a common ground based our common humanity!

[Editors: Dear PanteA,

Please visit our comment policy section for finding out about the rules. As it is stated in the comment policy, we reserve the right to remove comments. In order to create an atmosphere where people can freely express their opinion without feeling intimidated we need to enforce our comment policy rigorously. This will prevent deterioration of discussion to personal attacks and keeps them constructive.

There are times that the commenter does not intend to be intimidating or offensive, and it seems that your case was such. Unfortunately, this was not the way we perceived it when we read your comment. Please email us if you would like to find out why we thought it could be intimidating to certain people.

We hope to see more of your constructive comments on this site.]

Amil Imani at October 14, 2003 07:34 PM [permalink]:

Carl Schurz said, "Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands. But like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them you will reach your destiny."

It has been only twenty-four hours since the entire world heard of the year's sweetest surprise that a human rights activist from Iran, Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize. It was like a lyrical poem, melting into the contemplative tale, built from quiet moments and small details, perfectly matching the image to music. The moment captures the sweet, blinding high of inspiration, floating and running into each and every vein of freedom loving Iranians across the world.

It is with an unspoken pact of promises of more reform in Iran that Mrs. Ebadi immediately establishes herself in our hearts. She is the catalyst that we, Iranians, have been desperately seeking for this past twenty-five years of calamity left behind by the tyrants of the Islamic Republic.

There's integrity in her looks; integrity, honor, and a sense of duty. The initial surprise gave way to a hopeful joyous future; a hopeful future to all those students who are the product of the revolution. There is hope for all men and women who have been struggling to attain their basic human rights in a land of Cyrus the Great, the cradle of human rights. There's reason to be proud.

We understand the need to make connections. We understand and realize that hard works ahead. We understand that we have to both listen and give criticism. The world is changing so fast and we have to change to give Iranian youth opportunities to find their place and find happiness and security within her boarders. Hereafter, the onus should not only be on this newly elected Queen of peace in Iran, but on the entire nation, to transform ourselves into supporting roles and shed more light and make less noise than ever before.

Hereafter, we must strengthen our unity, elevate our awareness, and work diligently among ourselves, and be appreciative that the world of “Noble” has given us a noble and lovely present, a symbol of peace and recognition. We must take advantage of this opportunity and campaign very hard to make Mrs. Shirin Ebadi the first truly elected Iranian President since the late Prime Minster Mossadegh. So, ladies and gentlemen, as an Iranian citizen I make the motion to nominate Mrs. Shirin Ebadi for the Presidency of the Democratic Republic of Iran. Those who agree with my choice must announce their names and be registered forever in the history books. We must immediately start a petition and take advantage of this momentum.

Mrs. Ebadi also will be required to show some great courage when she receives some threats to her family. She will find many obstacles to overcome, including dealing with the tension of not being with her children as much as she would like. This new vocation will consume a tremendous amount of time and we hope that she will be willing to sacrifice her comfort, for this historic position.

We wish her well and will support her all the way through the upcoming presidential election and beyond.

Amil Imani
October 12, 2003

Einziger at October 14, 2003 08:05 PM [permalink]:

Mr. Imani, can you explain to me how you have the audacity to call a theocracy a "democratic republic"? I dont care how well you think the reform movement is going, but at the end of the day, it is still a theocracy. Perhaps you can educate me how you think she can run for presidency when she's not a cleric. You do know only clerics can rule in a theocracy right? Even if the vetting law that the "reformist" are trying to push goes through, it doesn't mean that a non-cleric can run for president. If anyone could run for president, then it wouldn't be a theocracy, it would be a democracy.

So please feel free to enlighten me.

Babak S at October 14, 2003 08:24 PM [permalink]:

Einziger: It seems to me that Mr. Imani's language is not referring to the Islamic Republic, but a future truly "Democratic Republic." Plus, the biggest obstacle on Mrs. Ebadi's way to run for presidency is not that she is not a cleric; non-clerics can run for presidency. The major obstacle is that she is a woman.

In fact, I find the idea brilliant, even if not feasible, not just because I was thinking about it yesterday, but since it gives us a zeal for furthur thrust. Betting out lives on a US intervention with still unbeknownst outcomes and consequences, for instance, is not wise at all.

Einziger at October 14, 2003 11:04 PM [permalink]:

Sorry, I got my supreme leader (head of govt.) and president (just a symbol) messed up. Well if Mr. Imani is not referring to the theocracy then he's advocating that Ebadi help foster another revolution right? The change between a theocracy and a democracy is so great as to warant the "revolution" label. However Ebadi has already clearly stated that she believes in reforms (read: change from within the theocracy).

Also, exactly how did you come to the conclusion that I support foreign military intervention? Simply because I'm stating the obvious that a theocracy can not be reformed you presume that I want compatriots to be showered with bombs? I'm saying we have seen Iranians revolt, and I can easily argue that we are moving towards a scenerio which looks very similiar to the 78 revolution.

Ebadi states that the era of revolutions is over, however I beg the differ. She claims more and more people are believing in reforms, and she seems to have it backwards. If by reform we mean the abolishment of the theocracy and the establishment of a secular republic then yes, she is correct. Everyday more and more people are fed up with the theocracy (both factions), and this was reflected when the biggest studiont union declared it was aiming at a secular system.

Now I want to make it clear that there is no such thing as a secular theocracy, though some "reformists" may swear it is.

Babak S at October 15, 2003 01:20 AM [permalink]:

Einziger: "how did you come to the conclusion that I support foreign military intervention?"

I didn't come up with any conclusions; I was giving an alternative example.

I do not mean to think of Ms. Ebadi as a possible next president literally. She's most likely no good politician, but just a good lawyer and legal activist/fighter. But I think she could serve the purpose of giving some much needed hope and zeal to a people exhausted by the stillness of a reform movement they had put so much hope on. I regard Mr. Imani's petition as a manifestation of this regenerated momentum.

I agree with you that a theocracy cannot be secular; this is a tautology. However, I think it's too early to have yet another revolution. I think it would be another futile attempt at this stage. Whether or not Iran is appraoching a revolution is too hard for me to foresee. Could I ask you to put forward your arguments pertaining to such a scenario?

Einziger at October 15, 2003 07:40 PM [permalink]:

I agree with you that to think of a revolution happening in the next month is very unlikely. However there is over-whelming proof that there is a movement to overthrow the government, and this movement is not peaceful. This notion of "peaceful" protests is the work of Vevak (the intelligence ministry). What they essentially did and continue to do is mimic anything they perceive as a threat including: dissidents, political groups, magainzines, newspapers, etc. Once they have properly copied these various threats, they slowly guide the people who follow them towards a certain path. The reason why you keep hearing peaceful protests, is simply because that's the message Vevak is putting out. Vevak understand fully well that people protesting will not overthrow the theocracy.

But if you've read some of the recent media you'll notice it's moving towards a more militant tone. Now you are starting to read that a eminent revolution is coming, whereas 4 years ago when everyone was jumping up and down for Khatami, no one was thinking about a revolution. Now you hear about how people would love it if there was a cleric hanging from every light post on Tehran street. Though these voices existed even during the days of Rafsanjani, they are beoming more and more prevelant. In a sense the clergy hammered in the last nail into the coffin of the regime. People tried to give reforms a chance, obviously it didn't come through. Some had predicted that a theocracy could never reform to such a extent where it's own legitimacy is questioned, but people didn't listen (reforms was yet another one of Vevak's strategy).

Right now (from what I hear) there is understanding that mosque and state must be seperated, and people know full well what that entails. However much orginization needs to be done if Iranians are going to over throw this regime by themselves.

Bahman Kalbasi at October 15, 2003 08:10 PM [permalink]:

Dear Freinds ,
I like to thank you all, for your time and effort and for reading this article and giving me feedback with your ideas and critics about it. At the end I would like to ask those in Canadian Universities to visit this web log and read the congratulation letter we wrote to Ms. Ebadi and sign it if interested:

Thank you indeed.
bahman Kalbasi

Babak S at October 16, 2003 01:32 AM [permalink]:

Einziger, your reply created more questions than answers:

1. What do yo mean by "mimic"? You mean the intelligence service agents pose as protesters? And where have you found this acronym, Vevak?

2. "Now you are starting to read that a eminent revolution is coming..." Where do I read this? In the MKO or other militant opposition pamphlets or in some real media? Would you please give some references?

3. There were always people who said they'd love to see clerics be executed. On what basis are you saying these voices "are beoming more and more prevelant" now?

I agree that there is a high level of frustration with respect to the progress of the reform movement, but I can't see how you claim, so vigorously, that people are going for another revolt.

Maybe we have different meanings of "revolt" in mind?

Arash Bateni at October 16, 2003 12:26 PM [permalink]:

merci bahman, I loved your conclusion!

AIS at October 17, 2003 06:35 AM [permalink]:

Here is some parts of an article written by an Iraqi intellectual (residing in Norway)-Kamel Al-Sa 'doun- about the American liberation of Iraq.
Just compare it with our "Nobel laureate"'s comments on the topic and draw your own conclusions. Mine is quite clear, I'm not going to play this wishful thinking game we all played with Khatami once again. Basta!
Here's the link:

Amil Imani at October 17, 2003 11:50 AM [permalink]:
Dear compatriots, This is my response to those who disagree with me: For the past 25 years, I have witnessed the lack of cooperation in all opposition groups abroad, to find a common denominator, to set aside their differences and work for a national and cultural cohesion.For the past 25 years, I have seen mudslinging, offensive epithets, personal attacks, innuendoes, uncalled tirades, old clichés, all and all without a single step of moving forward, but instead, going backward. Growing numbers of Iranians who are living abroad, regard themselves as pioneers in solving Iran’s problems, yet, they don’t even have a correct vision of those who live in Iran and what they have to deal with, on their day to day activities and chores of life. At no time in my memory, I have witnessed a mean-spirited and poisonous exchanges and anger, defusing, effervescently, among Iranian expatriates, as I have seen it this past 25 years. Yet, even the most democratic and liberal minded, secular loving individuals have not been immune from these kinds of labels and attacks that are routinely hurled by our so called secular moderates. Such unpleasant attacks; strike at the foundation of our struggle for achieving the ultimate goal of freeing our nation, from the hands of evil and butchers and murderers of so-called Islamic Republic. Thus it falls upon cooler heads, to reject the insult and abuse, and to restore the calm civic dialog and mutual respect that is the foundation of a just and secure political order. Sadly, our monarchy compatriots have found my efforts of creating a state of rejuvenation for the Iranian people in Iran, who have been deprived of such joys, to the contrary of their survival and have been undemocratically forcing me to take back my position of my choice of nominating and encouraging Mrs. Ebadi, to run as an independent, secular and separate entity, for the next presidency of Iran. Both monarchist and Islamists have found a formidable challenge and an obstacle, overnight, to the very fabric of their existence. Regretfully, these people think because of Mrs. Ebadi's statement that she is a Muslim woman, and her opinion of religion and the state can concurrently work together, without stepping on each other’s toes; attacks have come from all angels to discredit her as an agent of prolonging the rule of the Islamic Republic. They suspect that this stark accusation might put us democrats on the defensive. They must feel that the Democrats are also pose a threat to the fabrics of their monarchy Icon. The man who I admired for his resilience to show the true nature of the evil Republic in Iran, around the world, yet, never envisioned him to be anything more than just that. His mission has accomplished and now the world has given us a real “Nobel” person. A person who did not leave Iran to enjoy the comfort of the west. A person who stayed side by side of the relatives of the chain murderers. A noble lady who became the voice of human rights in Iran. A woman who spent some time in the notorious Evin prison. A woman who challenged the very fabric of Islamic Republic. A woman who was a Judge before the revolution and a Lawyer afterward. A woman who was recognized by the world for her hard works in Iran under the most brutal regime on earth. If she is not qualified to be nominated for presidency of Iran, please then tell me who is? Our respective political differences manifest more than contrasting political philosophies. Our political ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Senior Grad at October 17, 2003 04:18 PM [permalink]:

There seems to be something quite odd about the idea of having Ms. Ebadi run for president. Let me try to articulate on that! Well, beside all the external obstacles (women cannot run for president according to the IRI constitution, monarchists are against IRI, and whatnot) I guess one should first ask Ms. Ebadi herself whether she would find it fit to run for presidency. I don't think the answer to that question is an obvious Yes, but I think you assumed it is.

There is also something of a self-contradiction in Amil's latest comment above. He accuses (and I believe rightly so) the opponents of the Islamic Republic of labeling each other, and at the same time he can't help using words such as "butcher" and "murderer" for the entirety of the officials who serve the Iranian people, albeit under the Islamic regime.

P.S. Totally beside the point, but is Amil a male or a female name? How do you spell it in Persian/Arabic script?

AIS at October 18, 2003 02:53 AM [permalink]:

Dear Amil,

I don't know who you meant as a 'stauch monarchist'. I looked at all the comments and no one claimed that. In case you meant me, I am not a monarchist. Contrary to many others, I think the previous system with all its deficiencies was a good one for Iran since it had shown to have the potential of progress and openness to the rest of the world. ALL I want is for this Islamic regime to cease to exist and be replaced by a secular system in which at least the social freedoms of its people are respected and which has the ability to lead to a real politicaly free society in the future. Wether it should be a monarchy or a republic is the last thing I care about.
What you said about opposition is ABSOLUTELY true. I'm sorry that I can give no alternative or no way out of this. But think of my POV this way: If we are in a boat in the middle of the sea with NO resources of drinking water and perhaps no prospect of getting our hand on any in the future either, that still does not justify drinking the sea water since all it does is add to the already overwhelming suffering.

AIS at October 18, 2003 04:53 AM [permalink]:

O, and it is sometime now that I want to say this and forget about it: in one of my comments above I said something like this: '(in a historical and cultural context) Islam has many values as well, no doubt.'
Funny how easily one can turn into an apologetic. Sorry about that remark. I really think, in my normal state of mind, that even in that context Islam's virtues were infinitesimal.

Einziger at October 23, 2003 03:15 PM [permalink]:
1. What do yo mean by "mimic"? You mean the intelligence service agents pose as protesters? And where have you found this acronym, Vevak? Vevak basically creates copies of anything it perceives as a threat, and then uses the copied entities to push whatever line Vevak wants. There is a new article that talks specifically about Tabarzadi, but it also discuses Vevak. 2. "Now you are starting to read that a eminent revolution is coming..." Where do I read this? In the MKO or other militant opposition pamphlets or in some real media? Would you please give some references? Some right wing publications like Nationl Review has said this, opposition articles and statements have also stated the same. Though I dont have the source, maybe 3 weeks ago a paper published in Iran also stated that "the revolution is coming and whether we want it or not". Also, just because a opposition group states that a revolution is coming does not mean they are militant, rather they see as reforms as a dead end. 3. There were always people who said they'd love to see clerics be executed. On what basis are you saying these voices "are beoming more and more prevelant" now? Well let's compare July 1999 student uprising slogans, and 2003 protest slogans. Back in 1999, I very rarely read anything in regards to students open saying we want this regime done with, and instead all I read was let reforms happen etc. There were numerous stories in 2003 that stated that people were openly calling for the head of Khamenei and for a secular government. Therefor just by citing the difference of slogans from 1999 and 2003 we can notice a definite difference, namely that people are getting more and more angry and frustrated. I agree that there is a high level of frustration with respect to the progress of the reform movement, but I can't see how you claim, so vigorously, that people are going for another revolt. Well since 97 they have been promised "reforms" and you'd be hard pressed to find these "reforms". This has led people to come to a understanding that you can't reform the theocracy to the extent that people want. If you can't reform the current government then there are only two options you either 1) just take it 2) you overthrow it. Some want to state that removing the supreme leader will make everything ok, or removing the vetting process of the guardian council will make everything alright, and that is simply not the case. Iranians want a secular system, and you can't have a secular theocracy - so the system has to go. Maybe we have different meanings of "revolt" in mind? I think that seems to be the case. I want to also reply to Mr. Imani. First off, your blanket statement that all opposition groups have been unable to set aside their differences is utterly false. Second you seem to think that opposition groups fall into two groups either pro-Islam, or monarchists. Are you aware that there are pro-secular republic opposition groups out there? Also the statement I cited above does not take into account the huge differences that exist between opposition group ideologies. Perhaps you can explain to me how a monarchist group is supposed to sit down with a pro-secular group? I can go on, but rest assured opposition groups do in fact work with groups that have similiar ideologies. You are merely focusing on old opposition groups that have not lived in Iran for over 23 years, and are not notic ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Senior Grad at October 24, 2003 02:35 PM [permalink]:

This is not related to above comments. I just wanted to let you know that the last issue of The Economist had a great well-balanced three page survey on women in Iran. Writers who write for The Economist (all anonymous!) always amaze me.

The online copy, however, is going to cost you:

Shorn of dignity and equality

Babak S at October 24, 2003 02:58 PM [permalink]:

Senior Grad,

I guess you don't look at the links in the Linkdooni on the right side of the main page. The Economist article you linked to is still there (the last entry now). Or perhaps you wanted to emphasize its importance. By the way, as far as I can tell, the online copy is free.

Senior Grad at October 24, 2003 03:11 PM [permalink]:

Yes, Babak, I overlooked the so-called linkdooni! <:-) Thanks for the correcting note anyway. :-)

Senior Grad at October 24, 2003 03:17 PM [permalink]:

This is also related and worth reading (in Persian):

Iran4dummies at November 13, 2003 09:46 PM [permalink]:

I wrote something regarding her recent interview