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November 11, 2003

Hachemi vs. Ebadi: Justice in the Islamic Republic
Babak Seradjeh  [info|posts]

inversedjustice.jpg Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist, died four months ago on July 11 after being more than two weeks in a coma caused by lethal blows to her head during interrogations that followed her arrest while taking photos in front of Tehran's main prison, Evin. All that went wrong in those deadly events, from Kazemi's detention on an order by Tehran's General Prosecuter, Judge Saeed Mortazavi [in google news], to his later attempts at concealing the cause of death by either tampering with the outgoing news (he announced a brain stroke as the cause of death in the beginning) or directly threatening other officials or journalists, is inseparably attached to the Islamic Repulic judiciary system, the very entity responsible for bringing the agents of the crime to justice—so far.

Shortly after Shirin Ebadi was selected as 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, word was spread that she had been contacted by Kazemi's family to advocate their case in court, and a few days later she officially accepted to do so. However, Stephan Hachemi, the son of Zahra Kazemi, who lives in Montreal, Canada, quickly rejected Ebadi's representation, saying he was not going to "recognize the legitimacy of their [Iranian government] justice."

Shirin Ebadi is a legal activist, a lawyer who believes genuinely in the rule of law. She wears hijab in Iran since it is by law mandatory, but gives interviews bare-headed while abroad. Her form of activism is in line with the reformists' political agenda who won the presidential elections in 1997: exhausting all the possibilites of the existing laws in a struggle to provide them with a more inclusive range and a more tolerant language and practice. The practical outcome has been, so far, minimal. The same Judge Mortazavi who would, as a special press judge, bluntly close down tens of reformist newspapers overnight now, as a general prosecutor, literally dictates the few existing ones what to typeset as their first titles. He was even chosen by the head of the judiciary system to preside over Kazemi's case, in which he was himself a natural suspect, before handing it over to another judge under extreme pressure. However, Ms. Ebadi's methods seem to be the only non-violent way towards more freedoms, or at least less coercion.

Stephan Hachemi, on the other hand, is an ordinary Canadian citizen, who has lost a mother and been denied entry by the Iranian government to her mother's homeland for a last farewell as such. He has demanded two simple demands all along: the return of his mother's body to Canada and a fair mutilateral trial. His resources are limited to the Canadian government's and international commuintie's political pressure on Iran. Although Canada recalled her ambassador to Tehran in protest shortly after Kazemi's death, but the ambassador's eventual return, "to continue to exert pressure on Tehran," and a relative quiet in the media have made it hard to believe that there is enough pressure on Tehran, or enough momentum in the Canadian administration to pursue the case.

Thus, the question remains as to which is the right path: Ms. Ebadi's wrestling with the prudent, over-powerful judiciary system of the Islamic Republic, or Mr. Hachemi's principal stance for an internationally acceptable trial? Which one, ultimately, will do justice to Ms. Kazemi's lost life and her son's shattered hopes, as well as those of all other victims of a self-revering just-ice system?

Arash Jalali at November 11, 2003 02:13 PM [permalink]:

I don't think there is any such thing as "the right path" in this matter. The blood is spilled, the dear life is lost, and there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to undo what has been done. However, from the perspective of any victim's family members and loved ones, justice must be served not with the aim or hope of bringing back any lost lives, but to alleviate some of the pain, and to partially reimburse the loss. Now if you look at it this way, I think Mr.Hachemi's stance seems more reasonable, because as far as he is concerned, the Islamic Republic "just-ice" system is the guilty party, and no matter what kind of ruling the Iranian court would make, one cannot feel as much compensated for the loss as possible if the accused itself is supposed to be the one deciding on the sentencing.

This might seem a bit too far an example, but just imagine the relatives of the victims of the Holocaust, assuming that they had been given the right by the Nazi regime, filing a complaint in the Third Reich's court against those who committed those despicable attrocities in Auschwitz or Dachau. Sounds meaningless doesn't it? Only a Nuremberg trial would have qualified as a minimum platform for bringing about some kind of justice.

Babak S at November 11, 2003 02:53 PM [permalink]:

Arash, your example might be far but is a good one. I also wanted to add that part of the compensation, or the justice any court is supposed to do regarding the loss of human life, or any other crime for that matter, is making its occurance less likely in the future. We not only punish the past, and try to compensate the emotional/material loss, but also set precedence for future and thus correct.

Sir Thomas Lipton at November 11, 2003 09:56 PM [permalink]:

Both ways: Why not have Mrs. Ebadi working inside Iran uncovering the truth, and the Canadian government using all possible means to put pressure on Iran to co-operate? Mrs. Ebadi is relatively untouchable now (comparing to other lawyers), i.e. they can not jail a nobel prize winner easily if she starts to bother them. It has also been proved in the past that hardliners in the Iranian government give up under serious international pressure.

This case is very important in some way: This is a test to see how much Iran values human life. When this kind of murders happen in Iran, the hardliners always try to ignore it. Their excuse is always the same: "US and the Zionists will cling to this issue and spread negative words and lies about our beloved system throughout the world". I remember when the serial murder of intellectuals was revealed, Khamenei called it "murder of unimportant and unknown people", trying to imply that his government would never try to murder "unimportant" people, and those murder cases did not worth so much attention. Now on Zahra Kazemi's case, conservative media are full of similar quotes "Why would anyone want to murder an unknown journalist and photographer? This is a planned trap of the zionists and their agents to make-up a story and put our beloved islamic country under pressure".

They must learn that regardless of the level of importance of a murdered person, the case should be justly solved and the guilty should face justice. No more excuses for murder and torture is accepted.

Babak S at November 12, 2003 01:39 PM [permalink]:

Sir Thomas Lipton:

Yes, indeed that would be an ideal approach to the case. The problem is the two sides, Ms. Ebadi in Iran and Mr. Hachemi in Canada (or the government of Canada), do not work with each other, and thus their efforst won't be in concert. Added to this synchronisation problem is that Ms. Ebadi sounded in her recent interviews like she's totally against international pressures. Putting all these together, I think they indeed form two contrasting, if not opposite, approaches to the problem. In brief, I don't think this ideal concerted two-sided approach will happen in reality.

Senior Grad at November 12, 2003 02:37 PM [permalink]:

Sir Thomas Lipton hinted at the sanctity of life regardless of how "important" the person in question might be. It seems to me that this is an important (moral) issue in the West, but I guess to a typical Iranian mindset "unimportant" people do not count. This may (partly) explain why Khamenei declared the slain intellectuals as "unimportant". The truth is, he and his ilk probably do not really get it, they do not understand why the life of a person, no matter how ordinary that person may be, can still be so important.

At any rate, totally un-related to the case of Zahra Kazemi is a recent controversy in the media about the ruling of a court about a woman who's been in coma, or rather in a "vegetative" state for a dozen years. Her parents and her husband had a disagreement as what should be done. When I related this story to a dear friend of mine who has served in Iranian hospitals, and asked how such a case would be treated in an Iranian setting, he calmly informed me that a janitor (and I kid you not) would simply "relieve" such patients, and "we doctors would turn a blind eye".


a link:

An Iranian Student (AIS) at November 13, 2003 09:47 AM [permalink]:

Babak S,

I don't think anything could be more obvious than the fact that Ebadi's way is a futile WASTE OF TIME! How many more instyances do we need to finally get it?
And just a side remark, people why do you think the regime in Iran did not allow the body to be transfered to Canada? There was more than murder involved. Jufging from the conditions inside their torture chambers, I can only think of much worse, rape, name it!
And yes, the Canadian's will 'exert pressure'! Right! And the turtles will sing! When they have such fine business with the mullahs, what does the murder of an unimportant perosn count? Senior Grad, you see this? It is ahumna thing, stop degrading iranians like this. It is the system , not the people! Weren't the Nazis part of the West?

AIS at November 13, 2003 09:49 AM [permalink]:

I meant 'human thing', not 'ahumna'! sorry! 8)

Senior Grad at November 13, 2003 02:56 PM [permalink]:


When I run into people like you who are so sure of their own opinion (and I myself may be one of them. God, give me a mirror!) I really have no clue how to start arguing with them. So I guess I'll see you when your turtles start singing. :-)

Iran4dummies at November 13, 2003 09:47 PM [permalink]:

it seems that she is a big fan of Ayatollah Saanei

Panther at November 16, 2003 11:10 PM [permalink]:


OK Canada may have economic and financial ties with the mullas in Iran, so what?!? Is the Canadian-Iranian economic links enough reason for you to sit aside and watch all the ongoing misery? This way of giving up is a shame. This is exactly what Judge Mortazavi wants. One more EMTIAZ for him for convincing you to watch and do nothing.

What if two other "unimportant" Canadians get killed in Iran? Would you still sit and watch because Canada and Mullas have economic ties? You don't really value yourself and your opinion, do you?

BTW, What do you mean by "Ebadi's way is a futile WASTE OF TIME"? Yes Zahra Kazemi was definitely tortured and probably worse but what is wrong with Ebadi following the case?

An Iranian Student (AIS)a at November 17, 2003 10:28 AM [permalink]:

How did you discern that I said we should only watch and give up?!! I simply expressed the fact that sitting and waiting for Canada to exert pressure is hopeless.
About Ebadi, I meant her ways in general including her opposition to any outside pressure and her insistance on reform from within that Babak alluded in his article.
Please read more accurately before passing judgmnet.