- Published on Wednesday, 27 April 2011 19:20
- Category: Literature
“If you can’t eliminate injustice, at least tell everyone about it,” quotes Human Rights defender and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Shirin Ebadi, of famed Iranian intellectual Ali Shariati.
The saying could perhaps be described as Ms. Ebadi’s life mission. She has spent the last few decades working to uphold principles of equality and justice for women and children in her native Iran.
Now, she can add “Memoirist” to her impressive repertoire, having just released her account of her family’s tragedy in post-revolutionary Iran as three brothers followed separate political destinies. Ms. Ebadi is currently on tour to promote The Golden Cage, and Aslan Media was there in Washington, DC to catch up with her.
Aslan Media: In your book, you say you write about how you couldn’t imagine leaving Iran, and yet you have been forced to do so. Share your feelings about being forced into exile.
Shirin Ebadi: I’m very sorry that the conditions in my country do not let me work in Iran.
AM: What would it take for you to feel comfortable about going back to Iran?
SE: [The] people will have to win and democracy should be brought to Iran.
AM: [Supreme Leader] Khameini is rumored to be in pretty bad health? What do you think is going to happen to the Valayat-e Faqih [Guardianship of Jurists] after he passes away? Do you see a new chance for democracy?
SE: The Vilayet-e Faqih is in the constitution of Iran, so if we want to change that we have to change the Constitution.
AM: There is so much confusion in the U.S. about who is ruling Iran. Who or what, in your opinion, might actually be in charge of the country?
SE: As per the constitution, Khamenei is the highest position and of course his arm is the Revolutionary Guard.
AM: What do you think about the way Obama has dealt with Iran since he became president. Has he been too soft? Too tough?
SE: His behavior has been much better than [George W.] Bush. Bush threatened to take military action against Iran several times. The people of Iran do not like to be threatened.
AM: What do you think may be the impact of the Arab uprisings inside Iran? What do you make of the U.S. State Department’s claims that Iran is “exploiting the situation” to its advantage?
SE: Iran has helped [Syrian President] Bashar Assad, because he is a close friend and ally of Iran. In Bahrain and in Yemen, Shias are getting killed. Unfortunately the West, and even America hasn’t shown a reaction. Iran is the only country that’s helping the people, and has even asked that the matter be referred to the Security Council of the United Nations.
AM: There are still many in the U.S. and Israel who think that the only way to stop Iran's move toward building nuclear weapons is through a military invasion. In your book you write about how the Iran-Iraq war gave the new Islamic Republic a pretext to close ranks and govern “in the name of Allah”. Do you think a military invasion would give the Iranian regime the chance to clamp down even more against democracy activists?
SE: I totally disagree with a military attack. Unfortunately, numerous countries have an atomic bomb: India, Pakistan, Israel, America, etc. But it has to be abolished all over.
AM: Do you think the Earthquake in Japan, and the resulting humanitarian disaster as a result of the meltdown at nuclear power stations, will have a big impact on that?
SE: People are very worried because Iran is on earthquake faults too. But the government has said it’s not going to impact their program, they’re going to continue.
AM: Do you think there will be any popular push-back against the program by the people over concerns that a similar disaster could take place?
SE: No, the people have bigger and more immediate problems. For example, poverty.
AM: You were out of the country in 2009 when the Green Movement uprising began. Can you give us your thoughts on what happened in 2009 and what it means for the future of democracy in Iran?
SE: Prior to counting the votes of the elections, it was announced that Ahmadinejad had won the election. Millions of people took to the streets, but they were very peaceful. However, they were shot at while they were on the streets and a number were arrested and taken to prison. The repression continues up to this moment.
AM: Do you think there’s something the Green Movement can learn from the Arab uprisings?
SE: Yes, they can learn things, of course. But the reason that the people did not win in the Green Movement was because the government was very brutal, whereas in Tunisia and Egypt the military announced its impartiality and did not shoot at the people. In Iran, its not the same.
AM: What will it take for the lower classes and the poorer Iranians to back the mostly middle class reformists who want to change Iran?
SE: The ones who are poorer are in the Green Movement. We have strikes every day in Iran, and people are opposing their low wages.
AM: In the Arab uprisings, one of the reasons for success have been the military defections. Do you think there’s any chance for the Green Movement to encourage military defections?
SE: At this time, no. But in the future, I don’t know. It can happen.
By Christa Blackmon, Aslan Media Social Media Editor and Contributor
BUY SHIRIN EBADI'S BOOK TODAY. CLICK: