Peace and Politics

Oct 212003
Authors: Meg Burd

“It’s very good for human rights in Iran, especially for

children’s rights in Iran. I hope I can be useful,” said Shirin

Ebadi after hearing the news she had received the Nobel Peace Prize

Oct. 10. A devout Muslim, Ebadi has long been a crusader for

reformation and recognition of rights of women, children and others

in her homeland. One of the first female judges in Iran until 1979

when she was barred by the hard-line revolutionary government that

came to power, she now works as a lawyer, defending those she sees

as unfairly prosecuted or downtrodden.

Besides starting the Iranian Children’s Rights Society, she also

worked “to reveal the principals behind the attack on the students

at Tehran University in 1999 where several students died” and fight

for the murdered students’ families, said the Nobel Committee in

its recommendation. A defender of students in her home country, her

award should particularly resound with us students here at CSU as


Imprisoned for her work in this case, this controversy over her

work with the students wasn’t the first or the last time Ebadi has

experienced attacks on herself and her efforts. Indeed, even with

her illustrious reputation and worldwide recognition for her

efforts in human welfare, her receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize has

come under fire from two opposing sides recently.

While celebrated by many in her homeland, there are some in Iran

who dismissed the award as nothing but political manipulation

designed to embarrass the existing Iranian government. According to

CNN, Iranian president Mohammad Khatami (once considered a reformer

himself) criticized Ebadi by calling the award “not that important”

and dismissing it as political commentary directed at the

conservative Iranian administration by Western forces.

The government should not take this award as an embarrassment,

says Ebadi herself, but should rather see her as a compatriot who

respects her country and the law and simply wants to see it

improve. “I always acted within the law,” Ebadi said. She even

covers her head out of respect to the Islamic laws that govern her

beloved nation.

Besides criticism from the Iranian government, the choice of the

Nobel committee has also come under fire from some in America as

well. Amber Pawlik, writing for the conservative Men’s News Daily,

said in an almost mirror argument of Khatami’s that the award was

given to Ebadi not for her diligent work in human rights, but as a

statement against the Bush administration’s action in the Middle

East. Considering the Nobel peace committee (and by extension

Ebadi) “compromisers of our time” and “evil,” Pawlik seems to

suggest that accolades should go to someone voicing violent

rebellion or American involvement in Iran instead. Pawlik

criticizes the suggestion (which she sees Ebadi’s award as

exemplifying) that reform can be accomplished peacefully from

within the nation rather than externally through an invasion.

If both criticizers looked beyond their own agendas and at the

work of Ebadi instead, these notions that the award is an

embarrassment to the factions they claim to represent might make

them instead question what they are supporting. If recognizing the

work of a woman who has fought diligently and at personal risk for

children’s rights, women’s welfare and general human rights is

truly considered a slap in the face to either government, those in

that regime that see human rights as an affront to their agenda

should reexamine their own agenda instead of Ebadi’s.

Ebadi deserves this award for her work devoted to peaceful,

inclusive reform in an era where we have seen so much violence, and

also for being a voice for the often voiceless. Congratulations to

Shirin Ebadi for her work in human rights are most definitely in


Meg is a graduate student at CSU. Her column runs every

Wednesday. She enjoys dancing, yoga and meditation in her spare





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