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Shirin Ebadi: Protests in Iran Will Continue

July 13, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize winner and human-rights advocate appeals to Germany and Europe to increase their commitment to battling human rights violations in Iran.

Shirin EbadiImage: DW

“Tragically, the developments in Iran are such that we are moving further away from democracy with each passing day,” the Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi stated during a press conference at the Deutsche Welle on Monday, July 13, in Bonn, Germany. She added that Iranians are dependent upon support from outside the country in their current “and very sensitive state of emergency.” The government’s actions “aren’t compatible with the Iranian constitution, nor with Islam, nor with human rights.” She claimed that the protests would continue in new ways and that criticism from Iranian religious leaders will weaken the new government even more.

The Nobel Prize winner appealed to Germany and Europe to put more political pressure on the Iranian government. “I am against economic sanctions and military interventions,” declared Ebadi, explaining that both are introduced at the cost of the Iranian people. She added that this, in turn, creates new battle fronts and leads people to establish solidarity with their government. Instead, she affirmed, political sanctions must be imposed. In negotiations and contractual relationships with Iran, the West must “constantly insist upon the preservation of human rights.” This stands for Western political as well as economic delegates to Iran, according to Ebadi. For example, she suggests that countries could remove their embassies from Iran without completely breaking off diplomatic relations.

Ebadi noted that for the last two years, the West has engaged with Iran exclusively on the issue of atomic conflict. “One wonders whether Europeans are concerned only with their own security instead of with that of Iranians,” she said. Regarding economic relations with Iran, Ebadi said that “weapons and software supporting the suppression or control of Iranian citizens” should be blocked. “Ask Siemens and Nokia why they have released these types of technologies in Iran.”

Ebadi, who is currently staying in Bonn as a guest of Deutsche Welle, revealed that her negotiations with high-level UN officials have prompted the UN to send a delegation to Tehran to contribute to reporting on the situation there. “If the government does not permit the delegation to enter, it will prove that protestors’ grievances are representative of the truth,” according to Ebadi.

The human-rights advocate also pointed out that the number of victims during the most recent protests is much higher than officially reported. She said the brutality and violence on behalf of the government continues as the militias stand under supervision from the revolutionary guard. Ebadi noted that the number of people arrested is also very high and includes some of her colleagues. Recently, for example, the attorneys Abdolfatah Sultani and Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, two prominent figures in the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights, were arrested. The organization is headed by Ebadi.

The Nobel Prize winner further explained that the head of the Iranian judiciary had, “under political pressure,” issued a regulation whereby attorneys can lose their licenses to practice at any time. “This regulation discouraged lawyers from defending political prisoners and others whose opinions conflict with the government’s position.” According to Ebadi, many prisoners have been isolated and prevented from contacting their families or attorneys.

Ebadi, who emphasized that she has no close personal relationship with any of the presidential candidates, commented on further developments in Iran as follows: “Increasing criticism from influential spiritual leaders will lead the government to become weaker and lose its legitimacy.” She noted that the protests will continue and that the populace is creative and has found new forms of protest. For example, calling “God is great” from one’s windows or roof in the evening has established itself as a new form of protest, while mourning mothers meet regularly to engage in sit-ins. Ebadi herself will remain in Europe for the time being in order to campaign for human rights in Iran. Thereafter, she will “most certainly” return to her homeland.

July 13, 2009